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I have a conviction, and that conviction is that each lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and queer (LGBTQ) person in the Christian community is called to be a leader. This leadership comes by way of the simple fact that each person is called to lead others to God by his or her example. It is a great privilege to lead others to God, but it is also a weighty responsibility. Within this overarching calling is a deeper calling that few are privileged to experience. There are those among us who are called to lead in specific areas of our Christian communities. When we find the courage to respond to this calling-within-a-calling with a resounding (and also at times, tentative) “yes,” we sometimes find ourselves wielding strange and unusual power as leaders.
Power is a peculiar and elusive thing. The reason behind our decision to take up leadership positions is never unequivocally clear or singular. As human beings, we are inclined to undertake any manner of activity for a myriad of purposes. Similarly, those of us in leadership positions do so with a combination of reasons. I have no doubt that many of us take on leadership roles because we genuinely want to serve, rather than for exclusively self-seeking reasons. Yet, I suspect that many of us are in positions of power both for others and for ourselves. Let me be clear here: I do not think there is anything wrong with mixed intentions. I do not think that a dual desire to lead in order to serve others and to benefit from leadership is necessarily unethical. After all, no human being will do anything for himself or herself if it does not benefit him or her in some way.
What I believe we must always keep at the forefront of our attention is the reality that we would not be in positions of leadership if we had not been invited by God and thereafter accepted that invitation. We have no absolute right to be leaders—it is God who invites us. Nevertheless, this invitation is not a single occurrence. When we have responded affirmatively to this invitation, God continuously invites us to understand the meaning of our response. God persistently invites us to analyse, to gain clarity of, and to purify the reasons behind our acceptance of God’s invitation to become leaders. Yet, I believe that because God does not force or compel us, God can only do so if we adopt a reflexive demeanour towards our leadership, to constantly reflect on why we do the things we do, to ask ourselves:
- What kind of a leader am I—am I understanding, just, honest, patient and kind? Or am I biased towards certain people, irresponsible and unfair?
- Am I bringing people closer together, or am I creating cliques, or camps, or groups that are against each other?
- Am I helping the people I serve to grow in their relationships with God?
- Do I bring people to God, or do I bring people to me?
- Does being a leader help me to grow both as a human being and a Christian?
- Who is the centre of my leadership—is it God, or is it me?
- Am I creating a community that can think critically about issues of God and life, or am I just creating feel-good groups?
- Do I continue to create safe spaces for LGBTQ persons in my Christian community?
We need to be leaders who place God—not ourselves—at the centre of our leadership. We need to remember that we only have the right to be leaders because it is God who invites us. As leaders, we need to be sensitive to the depth, breadth and width of the power with which we are entrusted, and to use that power well in order that human lives may flourish, including our own lives as leaders. The acceptance of God’s invitation to be leaders carries with it the imperative to be reflexive, and to constantly examine our minds, hearts, intentions and words with humility.
Joseph N. Goh is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Gender, Sexuality and Theology with the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Monash University, Malaysia. He holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) from the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, CA. An ordained minister with the North American Catholic Ecumenical Church (NACEC), Goh is also a member of the Emerging Queer Asian Pacific Islander Religion Scholars (EQARS) and the editor of the Queer Asian Spirit E-Magazine (QAS E-Zine).
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