Spiritual friendship and same-sex attraction: Wesley Hill encourages campus to pursue love and intimacy in friendship
Bethel College’s chapel speaker this Friday was none other than Wesley Hill, assistant professor of Biblical studies at Trinity School for Ministry. Hill is author of various books, such as “Paul and the Trinity: Persons, Relations, and the Pauline Letters,” “Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian” and “Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality.” Bethel College is known for its Christian viewpoint and stance on many subjects. Homosexuality is one of those hot topics nowadays, and Bethel has taken the conservative Christian standpoint. While on campus homosexual couples are not allowed to have any public displays of affection, Bethel does allow homosexuals to attend and participate in all of Bethel’s activities and programs. Hill has himself struggled with having same sex attraction, yet we find him at Bethel teaching on friendship of all things. Bethel has been very clear that it believes that same sex marriage is against Scripture, so Hill’s presence at chapel raises an interesting question. Does his experience with same-sex attraction play any role in his relationship with Bethel? The answer is quite simple, Hill agrees completely with Bethel’s stance on homosexuality. “In so far, as I understand it, I’m in total agreement with Bethel,” said Hill, “that marriage is the lifelong covenant between a male and female, and homosexual behavior is sinful according to Scripture.” What Hill has come to realize is that even though he does have an ongoing struggle, he has done his own research into the topic of same-sex attraction and has found a unique conclusion. “It’s a bit tricky,” he said. “I don’t feel free in my conscience to pursue the more liberal same-sex marriage option, because I feel that that’s not Biblical, but I also have not experienced any sexual orientation change through reparative therapy or something like that. So, I’m kind of trying to carve out this place in the middle, and say ‘we haven’t thought enough about what celibacy looks like, what singleness looks like for those with same-sex attraction.” Hill has taken his situation and gone in his own direction. He has pursued Christ and listened to what God has called him to do in his life. He talks on the topic of friendship frequently, and believes that this topic is where a lot of churches just fail to encourage and nurture. “I think it’s also made me more passionate about helping the church nurture friendship,” he said of his research for his book “Spiritual Friendship. “We have a lot of retreats about marriage and family, we have a lot of books about marriage and family, and there’s a lot less resources on friendship. So it’s made me more passionate about equipping churches to supply those resources.” One of Hill’s main points in chapel was that the American culture tends to take the idea of intimacy and assume that it implies a sexual relationship. Hill defines intimacy in a different way: intimacy is a close relationship you have with another person that you can trust and confide in. Shawn Holtgren comments on this topic of friendship with great enthusiasm. He believes firmly that we should be emphasizing more on friendships and developing an intimacy with the people around us. While he doesn’t believe students need to be best friends with everyone on campus, Holtgren encourages the students to make friends and start to develop those relationships. “The opportunities that Bethel provides are as good as the students want to make it,” said Holtgren. Both Hill and Holtgren both hope that Bethel students will take the initiative to go out and pursue those deep friendships and to create intimate relationships with the people on your floor or the people that sit at your lunch table. College is what you make it. “I hope students take away the fact that love isn’t just reduceable to romance and sex,” said Hill. “That love is something that we’re called to regardless of our marital status, regardless of our attractions, God is calling every single Christian to love and to be loved in the body of Christ.” In closing, Hill hopes that the students will start to create those relationships and grow as a community, and that they will break the mold of the stereotypical intimacy and develop real meaningful relationships. “I think I’d like for (students) to remember me as ‘he’s the guy who celebrated friendship and encouraged us that we can also celebrate friendship,’” Hill said.