My Ministry as an Academic
Academic work is not just scholarly research and theoretical speculation. It is a way by which one can examine situations and people, in order to explain and engage with them in a systematic and intellectual, yet compassionate and respectful manner. Furthermore, academic work considers human experiences as an integral part of its efforts. I see my role as an educator and a researcher who highlights the areas of human life – personal or social – in order that these areas be given due attention for the greater benefit of human communities.
My research is in the area of the social sciences, a field of study that examines perspectives of human relationships in relation to society. My focus is on gender and sexuality – studies that look at masculinities and femininities in society, erotic expressions and experiences, and the meanings that individuals, cultures and societies have placed in them. Sometimes, these meanings are not sufficiently comprehensive and inclusive. As a result, many people feel that they are unwanted, abnormal and left out because they do not conform to expected norms. These people form sexual minorities, and are often treated differently than others, even to the extent of being excluded from certain privileges.
By immersing myself in education and academic work, and analysing the voices of sexual minorities, I am keen to widen and broaden conversations on issues of gender and sexuality. As a sexuality-affirming and sex-affirming minister, my ministry is firstly to provide a forum for persons who form sexual minorities opportunities to share their experiences, including their experiences of the divine. Then, I examine their shared experiences in a scholarly manner. Thereafter, I bring their experiences to places where they can be heard. I wish to create a climate whereby ideas can flow, voices can be heard, stories can be told, and where respect and acceptance can be fostered, even if there are differences of opinion. As such, the shared, lived experiences of my research respondents form the core of my research, and the research respondents themselves are the people I minister to.
My Sacramental Ministry
I am an ordained priest with the North American Catholic Ecumenical Church (NACEC), a part of the independent Catholic movement in the United States. The autocephalous jurisdiction of NACEC acknowledges the importance, but not the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. Often, when people think “Catholic,” they think “Roman” Catholic. This is not necessarily the case. NACEC sees itself as maintaining the beautiful traditions of Catholicism without the necessity of abiding by the governance of Rome, as was the case in the early existence of church communities. Outside the boundaries of Rome, NACEC strives to achieve a balance between both liberal and traditional perspectives. As an open, inclusive and affirming Church, it is especially open to, and embracing of persons in social, gender and sexual minority positions, both in its governance as well as in its membership. It also encourages inter-church and interfaith dialogue, collaboration and activities. NACEC offers special pastoral care to those who have been sanctioned or penalised by their own church communities for one reason or another, such as LGBT persons, and sees no obstacle in blessing the marriages of people who are divorced or who are of the same gender. NACEC encourages people to be responsible for and make prayerful decisions in their own sexual lives, such as issues of birth control, vasectomy and tubectomy. NACEC also believes in the ordination of women, and the gift of love and marriage for its clergypersons.
I see the presence of NACEC as adding hues of diversity to the Catholic and Christian movements, and all religions in general, and never as competition or a threat. For me, campaigns among churches to validate and invalidate each other are exercises in futility and incessant power struggles, and I have little patience with such petty banalities. I continue quietly in my ministry to people through prayer, scripture, tradition and innovation, sacramental celebrations, academic and non-academic writings, and other ways that address the needs of people, Christian or otherwise.
I believe that every form of faith contains truths that can teach me many things in my own spiritual journey. I am especially respectful towards the various religions practised in Malaysia, and see myself as a queer, interfaith Christian. Additionally, I have profound respect for those who do not profess any particular belief system, as I understand that they have their own insights that form a part of the bigger picture of human existence.
My clerical status is not in any way associated with the Roman Catholic institution.