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Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality(Deckled Edge) Paperback – 14 Sep 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (14 Sept. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310330033
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310330035
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.1 x 18.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 123,518 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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From the Back Cover

"Gay," "Christian," and "celibate" don't often appear in the same sentence. Yet many who sit next to us in the pew at church fit that description, says author Wesley Hill. As a celibate gay Christian, Hill gives us a glimpse of what it looks like to wrestle firsthand with God's "No" to same-sex relationships. What does it mean for gay Christians to live faithful to God while struggling with the challenge of their homosexuality? What is God's will for believers who experience same-sex desires? Those who choose celibacy are often left to deal with loneliness and the hunger for relationships. How can gay Christians experience God's favor and blessing in the midst of a struggle that for many brings a crippling sense of shame and guilt?

Weaving together reflections from his own life and the lives of other Christians, such as Henri Nouwen and Gerard Manley Hopkins, Hill offers a fresh perspective on these questions. He advocates neither unqualified "healing" for those who struggle, nor their accommodation to temptation, but rather faithfulness in the midst of brokenness. "I hope this book may encourage other homosexual Christians to take the risky step of opening up their lives to others in the body of Christ," Hill writes. "In so doing, they may find, as I have, by grace, that being known is spiritually healthier than remaining behind closed doors, that the light is better than the darkness."

About the Author

Wesley Hill graduated from Wheaton College and has an MA in Theology and Religion from Durham University in the UK. He is currently working toward a PhD in New Testament at Durham and has written for Books and Culture and Ransom Fellowship's magazine Critique.

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By William Fross VINE VOICE on 5 July 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By S. Peake on 9 Mar. 2012
Format: Paperback
I found this book really helpful as it is written by a keen Christian who is gay himself. He maintains the conservative Christian viewpoint on homosexuality whilst giving us strong reasons for being celibate as a gay-Christian. Most helpful is the personal insights into the pain and loneliness he feels. Christians who are quick to judge people on this issue would do well to read this book!
Thanks to Wesley Hill for having the courage to write this.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By C. Kidd on 23 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
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.
Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By believemyscars on 3 May 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Wesley Hill brings thoughtfulness, rigorous scholarship and humility. He challenges presuppositions on all sides of discussions around homosexuality in a helpful way. His story leaves himself vulnerable while challenging the reader to open up to their own vulnerability. The questions and issues are much deeper and greater than simple conversations of homoerotic orientation and practice. He has given me a new framework in which to think about suffering and salvation.
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235 of 243 people found the following review helpful
A Voice That Needs To Be Heard 21 Sept. 2010
By Nicholas Nowalk - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This weekend I had the chance to read Wesley Hill's new book, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality. Wesley is an old acquaintance of mine from grad school days, and a gifted writer and brilliant thinker (he is currently doing his Ph.D in New Testament at Durham in the UK). Previously Wesley had penned a brief, powerful essay exploring his own personal experience of exclusive same-sex desires, reflecting in it on his own anguished struggle of learning to relate his sexuality to the Christian gospel in a meaningful and consistent way.

In my view, neither the world nor the church has done a good job in recent decades in thinking through the complicated issue of homosexuality, or in responding both graciously and truthfully to those who identify as gay or lesbian. This sad state of affairs makes Wesley's book all the more crucial and poignant. Here I provide a basic overview of the book (160pp), but above all else I hope that many of you will make it a point to pick up a copy of it and work through it yourselves. Whether you find yourself agreeing or disagreeing with Wesley's own settled perspective, I think it unlikely you can remain unmoved as the author recounts his own story in often gut-wrenching detail, and you will certainly come to respect his authenticity and ruthless honesty throughout.

Washed and Waiting takes its title and cue from two biblical passages. I Corinthians 6:9-11 refers to the "washed" spiritual status of Christians, while Romans 8:23-25 reminds us that we are "waiting" and groaning for the future consummation of our redemption. This is the famous "already/not yet" schema (as dry academics like to put it) that pervades the New Testament, and Wesley rightly sees that it is essential to narrating one's own life well as a Christian. If only one side or the other of the contrast is taken up and accepted, either insanity or moral compromise will result. Within these two distinctly Christian images, Wesley has slowly learned to recognize the presence of Christ in his life through-not in spite of-his faltering yet faithful struggles with homosexuality.

As one who has experienced his homosexual orientation pre-consciously (it wasn't chosen), exclusively (he has never felt sexual attraction to women), and unremittingly (he has never experienced "healing" or transformation of his sexuality), Wesley is nonetheless forthright that his homosexuality is not the most defining characteristic of his life. He writes in the introduction:

"I've taken care always to make `gay' or `homosexual' the adjective, and never the noun, in a longer phrase, such as `gay Christian' or `homosexual person.' In this way, I hope to send a subtle linguistic signal that being gay isn't the most important thing about my or any other gay person's identity. I am a Christian before I am anything else. My homosexuality is a part of my makeup, a facet of my personality. One day, I believe, whether in this life or in the resurrection, it will fade away. But my identity as a Christian-someone incorporated into Christ's body by his Spirit-will remain." (p. 22)

Wesley unapologetically makes clear from the beginning that he is convinced-as difficult and as costly as the conviction is for him on a personal level-that the only legitimate Christian response to homosexual desires is to remain celibate. Engaging in same-sex romantic relationships is out of bounds in the kingdom of God-as, of course, are quite a few other things. In this he will not be popular with many, though I think his voice needs to be heard in a culture that is increasingly allowing only one side of an important conversation to be heard.

After a lengthy, captivating introduction in which he shares his own biographical experience of being a gay Christian, Wesley moves on in chapter 1 ("A Story-Shaped Life") to give a brief defense of why he remains convinced that as a Christian he must say no to his sexual desires. To back up his own endorsement in this chapter, I also would highly recommend that any thoughtful Christians who are interested in exploring this issue further read Richard Hay's chapter on homosexuality in his magnificent book, The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation. Also, I found especially insightful Wesley's dawning realization that it is within the story of the gospel-creation, fall, redemption, consummation-that his own experience with homosexuality makes the most sense in the most all-encompassing way: the shame and the joy, the ugly and the beautiful, the depression and the anticipation fit within the story of the cross and resurrection.

In chapter 2 ("The End of Lonlieness"), Wesley relentlessly opens up about the darkest layers of his life as a celibate gay Christian-namely, his longing for relationships of mutual desire and his fear that he will never know or be known in the way that his entire being aches for. In my own quite limited experience of knowing homosexual Christians with some level of intimacy, I have found Wesley's interpretation of his own experience to be the norm. At the same time, this perpetual feeling of profound loneliness is where I feel most "outside" my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who share this burden. So I am thankful for Wesley in humbly allowing me to gain a glimpse of what such a sacrifice has entailed (and continues to entail) for him in taking up his cross to follow Jesus as Lord. His ruminations in this chapter on God's design for the church-the community of believers who allow their lives to be shaped by the gospel-is powerful stuff. God's presence is meant to be mediated to us mainly through other followers of Jesus whom He likewise indwells through His Spirit. We need each other. What a glorious vision. What a heartbreaking tragedy that so much of the contempoary church is light years away from this calling, lost in games and trivality and obsession with self. Lord, have mercy on us.

Chapter 3 ("The Divine Accolade") focuses on Wesley's life-long suspicion that he is shamefully and utterly displeasing to God on account of his sexual orientation and desires. While this still clearly remains a daily battle for Wesley, he lets the audience in on his hope: that in Jesus, sinners can become loved and beautiful before God. Indeed, one day we will receive praise from God Himself when the Lord-in Augustine's wondrous phrase-crowns His own gifts of grace in our lives, glorifying both Himself and us in the process. Relying on C. S. Lewis' classic essay "The Weight of Glory", Wesley points to the Christian hope of one day entering fully into a relationship-both with God in Christ and with other redeemed sinners-of desiring and being desired without shame or guilt, of giving and receiving without hesitation or reserve. We will be "a real ingredient in the divine happiness." In light of this tremendous weight of glory and satisfaction which is coming, our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared. Yet at the same time, in light of this still-outstanding promise which often appears to us as a faint specter on the horizon, we groan as we wait for it. By faith.

Finally, I should mention that in several "interludes" Wesley includes helpful and touching accounts of two well-known gay Christians who also, like the author, came to the painful conclusion that God's purposes for their lives included celibacy: Henri Nouwen and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Yet being dead, they still speak. As does Wesley Hill, and I hope you will take the time to listen to his story.
123 of 130 people found the following review helpful
The Already and the Not Yet 25 Sept. 2010
By Rory W. Tyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I saw Wesley speak yesterday at the Story:2010 conference in downtown Chicago. I volunteered and so didn't get the conference swag bag (which had his book in it), but I managed to score a copy at the end. I read almost all of it on the one hour train ride from the city out to my apartment.

What's so powerful about Wesley's 'testimony,' and this book in particular, is the way that he manages to bring together two things which are constantly painted as being in opposition to one another, both by the church and by wider culture. On the one hand, Wesley is up front and honest about being gay. As he went through puberty, he discovered that he consistently reacted differently than his male peers. His story defeats simplistic "gay is a choice" rhetoric as well as challenging the assumption that everyone who is gay must have some sort of childhood psychological trauma that, once addressed, will unlock that person's true heterosexuality. He grew up in a conservative, close, loving, Christian household, and had a relationship with both his mother and his father. He simply felt different about his sexuality from the get-go, often despite his best efforts.

On the other hand, Wesley began to own, from a fairly young age, his Christianity. He believed in the gospel and found, as he grew older and read more, that he believed the Bible to be true; that he trusted Christ as the one who could save him from death and forgive him from sin; that he agreed with the Bible's overall narrative and picture of reality; that he believed the Bible to be accurate, authoritative, and sacred scripture. He is an evangelical and comparatively conservative Christian who went to school at Wheaton College and is currently working on his PhD dissertation (on Paul and the doctrine of the Trinity - I asked him about this at the conference when I had a chance to talk with him briefly!).

The title "Washed and Waiting" reflects Wesley's understanding of the reality in which believers (gay and straight) find themselves: the reality of being saved and forgiven and transformed through Christ's resurrection while still awaiting the final and ultimate redemption that will only come at the consummation of the kingdom of God. His book is unique in that it articulates a distinctively homosexual response and wrestling with this reality: for someone who is gay, the only response that still takes seriously the authority of the Bible and the reality of salvation through Jesus Christ is celibacy.

Wesley's excellent scriptural and theological articulation of life between the two poles of "washed" and "waiting" gives hope and encouragement to anybody - not just homosexuals - who struggles with persistent sin, doubt, loneliness, and struggles despite being a follower of Jesus. The truth that homosexuals and heterosexuals both find themselves ultimately faced with the same tension - living between the two poles of "washed" and "waiting" - has the potential to be a powerful message of reconciliation and strength in the evangelical church.

There are other important themes touched on in this book, such as the fact that our present culture tends to suggest that the height of humanness and intimacy is sexual activity, while the New Testament, in opposition to this, says that the height of such things is membership in the body of Christ. I'll simply conclude by saying that Wesley's book offers an important two-sided corrective. On the one hand this book seeks to correct those who think a biblical worldview is stifling, restrictive, and damaging for gay persons. If what the Bible says about human flourishing is true - and there is good reason to think so - then it is only within God's plan for humanity that individual persons, gay or straight, can ultimately be set free and healed. On the other hand this book seeks to correct and challenge those evangelicals who are uncomfortable around or who avoid gay people, or who still persist in the simplistic (and psychologically / spiritually / historically untenable) notion that homosexuality is always and for all persons a choice. To them, Wesley would say simply: What are you doing to make your churches places where people who struggle with loneliness, shame, and isolation - which certainly includes celibate Christian homosexuals but is not limited to them - are welcomed, strengthened, warmed, supported, and loved? It's a challenging thought.

I hope that Wesley continues to write. His theological acumen and writing style are both razor-sharp, and I'd be interested to see what he has to say about other areas of theology. But I also hope that this book inspires other people to be open and honest with their church communities about their sexual struggles. That area of struggle is so shame- and fear-inducing, and it's simply not biblical for local churches to hinder rather than help believers in this area. That arena must also be redeemed and believers must learn to be more honest about their own struggles, sexual and otherwise. Wesley's book is an important clarion call for all believers regardless of their sexual orientation. I hope it gains a wide hearing.
91 of 98 people found the following review helpful
Relevant for all who struggle with temptation 17 Mar. 2011
By wolvie05 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Wesley Hill is a most counter-cultural person: he is a homosexual Christian who nevertheless believes that 1) the Bible is categorically against all forms of homosexual expression, including a loving, committed relationship and 2) this condemnation is sound. As such he has committed himself to celibacy, unless (or until) he develops an attraction to the opposite sex.

In this eloquent, fascinating book, Hill recounts his struggles as a homosexual Christian and gives an apologia for his current position. His struggle is two-fold: despite much prayer and pleading, he has not experienced a dramatic reversal of his sexual orientation, so he continues to be tempted by lustful feelings for other men. But because he believes it would be wrong to act on them, he experiences intense loneliness as well as shame. Given this two-front struggle, readers will wonder why he does not simply change his stance and enter a committed homosexual relationship. Why continue to abide by behavioral restrictions which most of our society views as outdated and puritanical anyway?

The simple reason is that Hill believes the Gospel to be true: it reveals the truth about why God created the universe, including human beings, and what He intends for them. Because of that, the biblical condemnation of homosexuality is not arbitrary and tyrannical, but in fact a reflection of the way things ought to be in God's creation. If you're instructing someone how to use a car it is not arbitrary or tyrannical to insist that they must fill the tank with gasoline instead of vinegar: cars were made to run on gasoline, not vinegar. Even though this is a short book, Hill quite convincingly argues that the biblical narrative does, indeed, frown upon homosexual relationships. Thus, for a homosexual Christian who insists on being true to the Bible, celibacy is the only option.

This is not to say that celibacy comes easily, even for a committed Christian. In fact, Hill recounts for us a life full of struggle, sighs, loneliness and desperation. After all, sexual longing is one of the most powerful desires we can experience, and we tend to view sexual expression as essential to living a fulfilling human life. By way of response, Hill suggests that this view of sexuality is an idol of modernity, and that sexual love, while amazing, is not the highest form of human love.By the end Hill is convinced that the God-given cure for loneliness is the kind of deep friendship that exists among the brothers and sisters in the Church, as well as the recognition that God Himself desires us, no matter our sexual orientation or our past sins.

This is an incredibly powerful, uplifting little book. Hill writes eloquently and liberally quotes from classics in theology, literature and even film in support of his discussion. Some of the quotes themselves are worth the price of the book. But most importantly, Hill has given us an honest, searching account of the struggle of homosexual Christians to be faithful to the Gospel. Perhaps the most important thing that I took away from it is that, even though I'm not homosexual myself, I too face my own set of temptations and my own idols that I have to sacrifice in order to be faithful to the Gospel. For example, I am still single and must contend with the biblical mandate that sex be confined to the marriage bed. So his comments on the struggle with temptation are directly applicable to me personally, as I'm sure they would be to any reader regardless of their particular temptations.

I am very grateful to Wesley Hill for writing this book, and I pray that he may find the acceptance and relational fulfillment that he is looking for.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
More Than Worth the Read (and purchase price!) 25 Feb. 2011
By Matt Schaffner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
While on the surface, Washed and Waiting might look like any number of books published regarding homosexuality and the church, making that assumption would be leave one far wrong. Instead of a treatise on the evils of homosexuality or some theological gymnastics to explain away the biblical prohibition, Wesley attempts to simply explain who he is and what he believes. It is an intensely personal journey, as he shares his struggles and heart. The end result is something that speaks into far more situations than simply his.

As a straight, married, father of 5 I have little in common with Wes. However, as a man and Christian who has struggled with temptation, I can go beyond relating and almost walk with him. The specifics are different, but the conclusions drawn in the first chapters can apply to any sin issue. Whether it's dealing with same-sex attraction, lust (for any gender), compulsive lying, or anything else for that matter, we can glean much from the experience Wesley has lived. His journey highlights several specifics of note: 1. Sin is sin and we must acknowledge it as so; 2. Community is the only way to win in a sin battle (not personal resolve or chutzpah); 3. Giving up something to gain everything is the heart of the human condition coupled to Christ.

While those thoughts may not be groundbreaking (many have written similar things), the way they are presented is. We are a narrative people, which is why Jesus told stories all the time, and we relate best and learn the best from stories. Whether he meant to or not, the structure or the book being built around intensely personal stories brings home the truths in a way that mere words, no matter their eloquence, could. You find yourself relating to the struggles through the mirror of your own issues, seeing his answers and realizing (hopefully!) that the same answer can easily apply to you. As a youth pastor, I am hoping that is what happens as our senior high is going to embark on a journey through the book. Normally, something I have reviewed doesn't find its way into ministry this quickly, but the reading of this book caught me in ways that I didn't expect.

In fact, because of the experience I had reading the book, I am optimistically hopeful that it will have the same affect on my students. If it doesn't, that is also fine, as the secondary goal is to get them to struggle with something that culture says is beyond okay. In fact, even many churches go that route. If they can learn how anyone, gay or straight, male or female, weird or normal, deals with this Christian life, it is surely a good thing. If they learn that restraint, in any circumstance, is better than giving in to the temptation, it's more than worth the reading. If they learn that dealing with sexual orientation is still a choice (meaning they don't have to act on their sexuality, it merely is), it's worth far more than the price of the books.

Whether you agree with him or not, tagging along on this portion of Wesley's journey should show you someone who is authentically trying to live out faith. More than that, it ought to show what being faithful in any circumstance might look like. Get the book, read it, and engage with Wesley as he strives to be faithful to God and himself...
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Great understanding of sexuality. 28 Feb. 2011
By Adam Shields - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
One of the things I remember from a grad class about understanding diversity is that often people do not focus on their identity as ... until they are a minority in that area. So people often do not think about their maleness, until they are in a class of all women. They do not think about their Appalachia roots until they live in New York City.

Wesley Hill has a better understanding of the purpose and use of sex from a Christian perspective than most Christian books on sex or marriage that I have read. I think it is in part because of his struggle to understand sexuality as a consciously gay Evangelical (and so sex is something he cannot have).

There are three things that this book really gets right. One it is very consciously personal. About half of the book recounts Hill's struggle to understand his sexuality and his decision about why he feels that the only way he can be authentically Christian and still true to himself is to be celibate. The second thing that he gets right is that he does not keep it personal. He tracks two others Christians that also were both gay and celibate (Henri Nouwen and Gerald Manley Hopkins). Hill is still young, as a 20 something he does not have the life experience to discuss celibacy as a long term lifestyle and I think he wisely brings in the experience of two now deceased men. The picture of these men is not all that pretty, they lived tortured and lonely lives, but that is also part of what Hill will live as well if he continues to choose a celibate life. The third thing that I really appreciate is a view of sexuality as something that is not a 'right'. And he views all of life as a possible means of teaching us to be like Christ. This connectedness of life to Christ is important to how he understands God. God is not a cosmic killjoy that says he can't have sex out of meanness, but instead God has created a world that is fallen and that God uses the fallenness to mold us into the people he (God) wants us to be.

What I want for Hill is a better understanding of community and friendship. I understand why he has issues with community and friendship, but I think it is a result of a weakness of modern American Evangelical theology more than anything else. I want him to read Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions to help understand how cross-gender (or in his case other male) friendships can be non-erotic and fulfilling. And I think that a better understanding of monastic theology would help him understand the role of community in faith formation better.

Overall, I really recommend this book. Anyone that has friends struggling with same gender attraction will find a better understanding of the struggle in this book. Anyone that is struggling with celibacy (gay or straight) will find a good understanding of the role of celibacy in the church. I also think many married people will find his understanding of sex useful because sex in marriage is not (or should not) be about personal fulfillment like what culture makes it out to be.


I received this book from the publisher for purposes of review. I have passed it on to a friend.
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