The academy is a scholarly organization dedicated to the study of and critical reflection on theological thought and action. Its members, who span almost every continent, are professors and scholars who “look deeply into the heart of our religious tradition in order to interpret contemporary situations from religious and spiritual perspectives,” said Cruz. Put simply, they reflect in faith on the human condition and the natural world.
“The practical theologian’s role is to explore ways for humans and communities to be more fully alive,” said Cruz. “And to promote the integrity of all of God’s creation.”
Cruz was installed president at the academy’s biennial conference held in São Leopoldo, Brazil. Prior to his new appointment, he was vice president for two years and has been a member for more than a decade.
Cruz brings both a global and historical perspective to the international organization: He is its first president of Asian descent. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, Cruz migrated to the United States in 1982. He serves other international organizations, both as a leader and a community member. As a teaching scholar, he has collaborated with migrant and refugee communities in the U.S. at the parish, diocesan, and national levels.
As president, he aims to expand the organization’s global reach, especially when it comes to underrepresented scholars.
“I’d like to reach out especially to scholars who are unknown and somewhat hidden, particularly those who come from under-resourced countries and institutions,” he said.
Cruz also wants to promote a more inclusive theology that encompasses perspectives from all continents, rather than focusing on Europe and North America, which has been the case for decades.
The academy’s professional theologians intend to develop and train local or grassroots theologians. Cruz said he wants to promote an approach to theology grounded in people’s indigenous environment and human experiences, as opposed to abstract theories.
“We want to have more intentional and direct conversations about how ordinary people experience God in their daily life and struggle,” said Cruz, “and how those of us who do it professionally understand God.”