I hope every Christian reads this book. It is a window into the experience of a gay evangelical, but it is also a story about discipleship - what it means to follow Jesus in the face of overwhelming challenges. I think that everyone, whether they are looking in from the outside or struggling through on the inside, will learn and benefit from Hill's observations and stories.
The blurb is accurate, and phrases the content of the book very well: "In Washed and Waiting, Wesley Hill writes for gay Christians and those who love them. Part-memoir, part theological reflection, Hill shares the struggles that gay Christians face as they seek to live faithful to God's 'no' to homosexuality...He advocates neither unqualified 'healing' for those who struggle, nor their accommodation to temptation, but rather faithfulness in the midst of brokenness."
Hill shares stories of homosexuals who strive to remain celibate in light of their conviction that the gospel demands it. He tells his own story, along with those of Henri Nouwen and Gerard Manley Hopkins, and draws on writings from CS Lewis, Rowan Williams and others as he tries to explain his own understanding and experience. There are some rock-hard, hard-won truths in here, and they are all the more powerful because the book is not a polemic. He is not trying to convince anyone of a particular position: he takes a starting point - that of celibacy for those with a same-sex attraction - and is writing to comfort, to help others to understand, to show the people in his position that they are not alone. I think he succeeds in this. If you want to get a sense of the tone of the book, I recommend the short videos on YouTube of Hill discussing the book.
In some ways, this book reminds me of A Grief Observed by CS Lewis. Both books start with the authors' experience and then apply the gospel to it. That is how discipleship must work, and this example of discipleship lived out deserves to be widely read.
This book is brave, bold and daring. It dares to be counter-cultural (as Christianity has been in the past) and offer us the real life experience and beliefs of the author. Wesley writes as an evangelical Christian who describes his battle with same sex attraction and his belief that God calls such people to celibacy. Wesley has been brave to write this because lots of people will resist what he has written with great animation, but how can we resist this truth, that Wesley along with many others believes these things?
If we should welcome those who 'come out' as gay, should we not also welcome Wesley and accept him?
In a day when only the loudest shouters are allowed to tell their point if view, here we have a quiet voice whispering into the night, that there is more to life than sex. In an overly sexualised society, Wesley declares that walking with Jesus is worth more than fumbling in the dark, however enjoyable that may be at the time, and that celibate Christianity is in fact an abundant life.
This book should be read by anyone confused by their own sexuality, especially those who would describe themselves as Christian. It will also help young heterosexual Christians in evaluating their walk with Christ, and seeing the value of waiting for marriage.
In a liberal democracy, all views are valid, and Wesley's must be treated so. I look forward to meeting you some day Wesley and shaking your hand.
on 23 August 2011
The issue of homosexuality is one that seems to be critical to the church, especially here in the UK where we hear so much reported in the press about the debate within the Church of England. This is becoming, if not already, a defining issue for the church, and unfortunately the church doesn't seem good at engaging with this issue in more than a superficial way.
Wesley Hill as a Christian, and someone who is gay, has attempted in writing Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality to open the debate up. He is an evangelical Christian, but he is also a man who has always been attracted to men, and only men, he seems to have a natural orientation or inclination to homosexuality. As he tries to live out his Christian faith, he has remained celibate, convicted by his faith.
The book isn't a theoretical book on faith and sexuality, although he does attempt to engage with some of that, but instead it is his journey as he wrestles with faith and sexuality. The book highlights how Hill isn't alone, Martin Hallet of True Freedom Trust is quoted as saying:
"There are probably nearly as many Christians with homosexual feelings who do not believe that homsexual sex is right for Christians as there are those who are advocating its acceptance."
Hill, in an guest post for Engaging Church writes:
That's why I wrote my book--to describe, primarily for celibate gay Christians themselves, my experience of homosexual desires and my commitment to Christianity's traditional position that sex is intended to be experienced only within marriage between a man and a woman. I wanted to assure gay Christians, many of whom remain deeply committed to Scripture, that their struggles--with the "why" questions, with loneliness, shame, and the hunger for love--are shared by many in the church. I wanted gay Christians to realize they aren't alone as they seek, in their own way, to "grow up into Christ" (Ephesians 4:15) along with the rest of their fellow Christians.
My hope is that this book will help pastors better understand what it looks and feels like to be a Christian facing the reality of one's own broken sexuality. The result, I hope, will be a greater sensitivity to one another's weaknesses, and a deeper commitment to "bear one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2) in the fellowship of Christ's Body.
The book goes beyond simple answers and asks tough but important questions. I like the way that Hill draws parallels with homosexuality and singleness - what it means to be called to a life of celibacy outside of marriage. Of course there are still differences; a single heterosexual person may still hope to meet someone; the homosexual doesn't have that opportunity. Hill acknowledges that God can changes someone's sexual orientation, but in his case God has not done so.
He ends the book calling for celibacy and to the work of the local church and the Holy Spirit. Throughout the book he highlights the power of quality friendships that supported, encouraged and challenged him. I doubt this is a book that in decades to come, people come back to read, but it provides the opportunity for the evangelical church to engage in a better and deeper way with this topic.