Dr. Lisa Sung: Appreciation for Mundelein Seminary

by on July 19, 2019

After two years of service as the Chester and Margaret Paluch Professor of Theology, we bid farewell to Dr. Elizabeth Sung who is continuing her research work as Scholar-in-Residence at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada.

The USML community is grateful to have had Dr. Sung with us as a visiting professor and have gained much from her scholarship on the Reformation, on racism and theological anthropology.

It may seem odd, at first, that the largest Catholic seminary in the United States would invite an Evangelical Protestant theologian to join the faculty for two years. Timing is important. 2017 was the five hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The first half of the 16th century saw the Western Church divided. Europe suffered greatly from these divisions, so much so that later generations forget that the original impetus for reform began in the Catholic Church and was recognized by popes and council as a serious need, even if launching the reform proved difficult. In the last 100 years, the worldwide ecumenical movement has made progress. Pope Francis, during his audience with leaders of the Church of Scotland at Rome in Fall 2017 noted: “The past cannot be changed, yet today we at last see one another as God sees us,” he said. “We are first and foremost his children, reborn in Christ through one baptism, and therefore brothers and sisters. For so long, we regarded one another from afar, all too humanly, harboring suspicion, dwelling on differences and errors, and with hearts intent on recrimination for past wrongs.” (Crux, October 27, 2017).

Francis challenged Catholics to commemorate the Reformation, in all of its depth and nuance, as a way forward in the work of Christian unity. This was one of the reasons that Dr. Sung joined us for the 2017 school year, just months before the 500th anniversary. The other was her extensive research on racism. No one can deny that racism remains one of the critical issues which religious leaders must face today. Her wealth of knowledge about the field allowed her to bring a valuable contribution to Mundelein.

Part of the work of the Paluch Professor, an endowed visiting professorship supported by the Paluch Family Foundation, is to enrich the Mundelein community with perspectives from outside our regular faculty’s expertise. Through a series of public lectures, Dr. Sung shared with us her methodology as a systematic theologian in the Reformed Tradition, of bringing deep biblical exegesis into dialogue with social science research. This mixture of a theology viewed through the lens of a high view of the scriptures’ authority and a high view of Christology bring with it a confidence about using the findings of social science as a source for theological reflection. Dr. Sung’s public lectures are published in Chicago Studies, the journal of the faculty of the University of Saint Mary of the Lake. http://chicagostudies.usml.edu/

As a teacher, Dr. Sung offered elective courses in Mundelein Seminary, co-taught the Reformation history course in the Pontifical Faculty of Theology and led a seminar for the Graduate School’s Doctor of Ministry program on social science and theology.

Through these two years, she also pursued her research lines. She has two book projects, both under contract from publishers. The first is on racism, a continuation of her doctoral research. The second is a volume on theological anthropology. One of her surprises was how much the experience of academic life in a Catholic seminary has informed these projects.

Recently she was interviewed by the Women in the Academy and Professions ministry, part of the Graduate & Faculty Ministries division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship-USA. In the interview she shares her conversion story to Christianity, and the surprises God had for a Reformed theologian during her two year at a Catholic seminary. To listen to the interview, go to http://thewell.intervarsity.org/podcasts/call-unity-christ-interview-lisa-sung