In 2010, a seminary professor from Pennsylvania published a short book that helped fan the flames of a growing movement of celibate gay Christians. The professor was Wesley Hill, and the book was “Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality.”
At the end of this month, Hill takes his arguments a step further with the release of a second book, “Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian.” In it, he argues that in order to forge a new path for LGBT Christians, the faithful must reimagine friendship. Garnering endorsements from respected thinkers such as Duke’s Richard Hays and Baylor’s Alan Jacobs, it will no doubt generate much conversation. Here, he offers an exclusive look at the book and his message.
RNS: Let’s start with the foundation. How do you define friendship in a sentence or two?
WH: According to Christian writers of the past, spiritual or Christ-centered friendship—the kind of friendship I’m writing about—is a bond between two (or more) people who feel affection for each other. But it’s also a bond that has a trajectory. It’s a relationship that’s about helping one another along towards deeper love of God and neighbor. I like that but would add that as those sorts of friendships mature and deepen, they often start to become more committed and permanent. It’s almost as if the friends want to become more like spiritual siblings.
RNS: Which Bible passages paint a picture of the kind of friendship you’re describing?
WH: Obviously the story of David and Jonathan is an important one. Also the story of Ruth and Naomi, and maybe even, in certain respects, the story of Paul and Timothy, are key exemplars. But I would say my picture of friendship is most influenced by Jesus’ own life. He himself enjoyed special friendships with Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha, as well as his “inner circle” of Peter, James, and John. He taught his followers to view each other not just as acquaintances but as family.
RNS: You argue that friendship should be understood as a vowed relationship, much like marriage. Could you imagine this looking like a same-sex partnership–except non-sexual–or is that still off-limits in your view?