Book Review - Spiritual Friendship

Spiritual Friendship - Finding love in the Church as a celibate Gay Christian
Wesley Hill  Brazos Press, 2015

It is not very often that I would say that a book is deeply moving, but this one is both powerful and profound.

I’ve been thinking for quite a while that as much as we need to defend biblical orthodoxy with regard to human sexuality we also need to say a lot more than that. Wes Hill is among a group of courageous people who have been willing to share their struggle and their responses to being same sex attracted and celibate. With regard to this, Vaughan Roberts and Ed Shaw also come to mind.

Wes was in Melbourne last year and was the main speaker at a very well attended pastoral forum run by Ridley College. He also spoke at three large public lectures. Wes lectures in New Testament at Trinity School for Ministry in Pittsburgh and is pursing ordination in the Anglican Church. He lives with a married couple and is the godfather to their first daughter.

Wes offers a fresh and unique exploration of ‘friendship’ and takes us to surprising places and people along the way. Wes, as with his first book ‘Washed and Waiting’ is remarkably honest about his own vulnerabilities and struggles. Here is a real person exploring what it means for him to be faithful to God when it involves the challenges of being celibate. It is rare to read a book that is as frank about the pain involved in that predicament. Wes explores friendship as an idea and responds to a range of thinkers over the centuries in relation to this important area in each of our lives. He delves into biblical, theological and historical insights along the way. Hill explores what it is to be involved in committed friendships and to find true friendship in the context of a Christian community.

The book is broken into two parts.  Part One looks at the background and biblical/theological issues and Part Two focuses on the living out of friendship today, especially for same sex attracted believers who accept that they will remain celibate.  Chapter 1 looks at the weak nature of friendship in western culture. Chapter 2 explores how friendship can be expressed in a committed way. Chapter 3 looks at the scriptural and theological underpinnings for our practice of friendship. Does Jesus death and resurrection transform friendship? Chapter 4 looks at the intersection between erotic love and friendship. Chapter 5 asks what it means to cultivate committed friendships and Chapter 6 explores how we can pursue and nurture friendships in the church today.
‘Friendship is a good and godly love in it’s own right, just as worthy of attention, nurture and respect as any other form of Christian affection. That’s what the Christian tradition has said. And that’s what I want to say - from a fresh angle of vision – in this book.

Wes Hill will challenge you as well as help you to think about these issues in unique and very helpful ways. His is a prophetic voice in the church today and he offers hope and positive ways forward for those who are same sex attracted and looking for love and companionship. I strongly recommend this book.

Stephen Hale