Focusing on the church’s engagement with gay and lesbian Christians, this book invites readers into a gracious conversation regarding human sexuality.
The Word Awards are designed to bring attention to excellence in Canadian Christian writing in all genres.
Award winners will be announced at a gala on June 13, 2015, in Toronto, Ontario.
Buoyed by the psalmists, who trusted God in the midst of their anxiety, joy, anger, and suffering, Billings wrestles theologically with the daily realities and implications of his cancer diagnosis.
His honest witness can help Christians avoid glibness or sentimentality in supporting those facing serious illness.
Todd Billings appeared on Connecting Faith with Neil Stavem (Faith Radio network).
Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory (Jerry L. Walls) Media:
Spiritual Friendship (Wesley Hill) Media:
It is one of the most important books of our time, vital, important, rare, wise, exceptional. It is exactly about our embodiedness, yes, even about the redemption of our sexuality.
It is beautifully written, exquisite at times, and more candid then one might expect in an evangelical Christian book. We are proud to carry it, and eager to commend it to one and all.
Wesley Hill will be appearing at Christ Church Anglican on May 2 with Tim Otto and Julie Rodgers.
After the Lord has left them, at “that very hour” the pair return to Jerusalem, presumably arriving later in the same evening, to find “the eleven and those who were with them gathered together [athroizō]” (24:33), already talking in amazement about the Lord having appeared by now to Simon Peter (24:34). And so Cleopas and the other tell their story too, notably “how he was known to them in the breaking of bread” (24:35).
But even while they are in this joyous exchange, flushed with the excitement and wonder of it all, suddenly Jesus is standing “in the midst of them” and saying, “Peace to you” (24:36).
Despite the collective witness of previous encounters with the risen Lord, they are “terrified and affrighted” (ptoeō and emphobos—the doubling indicates extremity of apprehensive emotion) and think he is a ghost (24:37).
As so often, he calms them down: “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (24:38). He points to his hands and his feet, inviting them to touch him, “for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (24:39). When he does this (24:40), they can scarcely believe for their joy and wonderment (thaumazō has the sense we employ when we refer to something wonderful as “fantastic” or “incredible,” not meaning the word literally but hyperbolically for something so marvelous our minds cannot take it in).
Luke here is as emphatic about the physicality of the resurrected body of Jesus as Paul will be later (1 Cor. 15:35–49); it is of the essence of what he is showing to have happened that every expectation of mortal nature in death has been broken through, the corruptible body having been restored and now, recognizably flesh and bones, yet an entirely new phenomenon.
It can scarcely be overstressed how contrary Luke and Paul are to modernist metaphorizing and sidestepping of this absolute foundation of Christian faith and hope.
John Updike, himself a modern and no pietist, nevertheless underscores this point beautifully in a poem directed against the evasive liberalism of many theologians when he insists that Jesus’s bodily resurrection is the lynch-pin of any plausible Christian future: “if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules / reknit, the amino acids rekindle,” he says, “the Church will fall.”
The following is an excerpt from Chapter 11 of Nonviolent Action: What Christian Ethics Demands but Most Christians Have Never Really Tried by Ronald J. Sider.
Too often, power is understood only in terms of lethal coercion. Mao Zedong said that power is what comes from the barrel of a gun. Certainly power includes the ability to control people’s actions by the threat or use of lethal violence; however, the people also possess nonviolent collective power because they can choose to withdraw their support from rulers.
Nonviolent activists possess strong moral power. Praying, reconciling teams of Christian peacemakers risking their lives for others would share something of the moral power that Jesus exercised in the temple. He was able singlehandedly to drive the crowds of angry, oppressive moneychangers out of the temple, not because he was stronger or his disciples were more numerous. It was because deep in their hearts they knew that he was right.
International public opinion would also be inﬂuential. The daring of the teams of Christian peacemakers would sometimes make headline news around the world. Any group or nation that battered or killed prominent, internationally famous Christian leaders or even ordinary peacemakers would suffer substantial international disapproval.
A mandate also provides authority and therefore power. A mandate to intervene internationally, if issued by an organization such as the Organization of African States or the United Nations, could legitimize nonviolent teams of peacemakers. So too—at least to a certain, if lesser, degree—would an invitation by prominent Christian leaders and established churches, as well as recognized leaders of other religious groups.
Self-sacriﬁcial love has innate power. It often weakens even vicious opponents—though not always, of course. People ready to suffer for others sometimes get cruciﬁed. But often, too, they evoke a more human, loving response, even from brutal foes.
The discipline, training, and coordination of an organized body with visible symbols of identity and cohesion are also powerful. Part of the power of a large group of police or soldiers lies in their uniforms, careful coordination, and ability to act quickly, decisively, and collectively. Highly trained and disciplined peacemaker teams would possess some of this same power.
Finally, there is the divine power of the Lord of history. What the Almighty will do if thousands of praying, loving Christians nonviolently face death in the search for peace and justice will remain shrouded in mystery—at least until we have the courage to try it. But what believer will doubt that there may be surprises ahead?
Death will be tragically intertwined with any serious test of the effectiveness of nonviolent action. But that will not prove that the effort has failed; it will only underline the depth of human sin, and also the fact that Christians are willing to imitate the One they worship. Nor is that all. The death of courageous nonviolent activists will also lead to the birth of a more powerful belief in and practice of successful nonviolent movements for peace and justice.
©2015 by Ronald J. Sider. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.
April 10, 2015 By trinity.graeser
RNS: How do you hope reimagining friendship will help shape the debate over same-sex erotic behavior?
WH: My sense of the debate in the Christian churches is that many people think there are two options: Be gay and celibate and therefore lonely, or be gay and partnered and therefore not alone. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t think those are the only two options. I’m trying to live in a different place: openly acknowledging that I’m gay, pursuing a life of sexual abstinence in obedience to what the Bible teaches, and seeking to fill that life full of friendship and community.
How would our debates about how to love gay and lesbian people in our churches look different if celibacy seemed like a viable option, because deep friendships were a normal part of the Christian life, rather than the bleak occasion for marginalization that it so often appears to be now?
Read the entire article, “Celibate gay Christian leader urges faithful to ‘normalize’ committed friendships,” here.
Wesley Hill was mentioned by Ross Douthat in The New York Times.
April 8, 2015 By trinity.graeser
This excerpt comes from Psalms for All Seasons, commenting on Psalm 133:
The psalm uses dramatic imagery to convey the beauty of unity, comparing it to fragrant oil and mountain dew.
A prayer for reflection:
O God, let the overflowing of your Holy Spirit
cover your church with the blessing of unity
and the anointing of your peace,
through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
©2012 Faith Alive Christian Resources. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.
April 6, 2015 By trinity.graeser
This is an original post by Wesley Hill, author of Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian.
Wesley Hill (PhD, University of Durham) is assistant professor of biblical studies at Trinity School for Ministry. He is the author of Paul and the Trinity: Persons, Relations, and the Pauline Letters and the much-discussed Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality. Hill is on the editorial board of and is a columnist for Christianity Today. He also contributes to Books & Culture and First Things.
Several years ago, during a time in my life when I was feeling especially lonely, I read a blog post by the gay Catholic writer Eve Tushnet on the theme of friendship. It was a short post, and it made one simple point. Its main idea was contained in one sentence, even. “My actual experience of friendship,” Tushnet wrote, “very strongly suggests a need and desire for friendships to become, over time, understood as given.”
What did she mean?
Well, there is a popular conception about friendship that goes back hundreds of years. Friendship, we have often been told, is the least “given,” the least constrained and committed and biologically driven, of all human loves. By contrast with our siblings, we get to choose our friends. Unlike our parents, our friends are connected to us by sheer liking. And in a way that differs from our spouses, to whom we’ve made vows for life, whether we go on liking them or not, our friends are simply our preferred ones. We aren’t bound to them, promised to them, “stuck” with them. And that, it is usually said, is what makes friendship so unique—and so precious.
But Tushnet’s post cuts against that conception. In her experience, she wrote, if a friendship lasts long enough and goes deep enough, it starts to edge away from the “free and unconstrained” territory and starts to move into the realm of “bound for life.” Friendship, in other words, starts to look more familial, more permanent, more “wedded.” As the Russian Orthodox writer Pavel Florensky once put it, oftentimes friendship strives to merge into the concept of brotherhood or sisterhood. It wants to become more constant.
When I read Tushnet’s post, I immediately resonated with it. I think the reason it struck me so powerfully had a lot to do with the fact that I’m gay. Because I’m a Christian of a pretty traditional sort and I accept the classic Christian teaching that marriage is a covenant between male and female and is ordered toward the bearing and rearing of children, I’m also celibate.
Being gay and celibate can leave you wondering whether you’re left out in the cold when it comes to committed, stable, intimate relationships. Watching many of your friends pair up and get married, you wonder if you have to settle for something less than that—for relationships that always end with separation or distance. And sometimes friendship, which is all too fleeting in our mobile society, comes to seem like a consolation prize. As blogger Casey Pick has written, “No community is quite so sensitive to the reality that, for all its virtues, friendship isn’t family.”
But what if Christian friendships, or at least some of them, were able to become more committed, more bound by promises, and more recognized as integral, lasting parts of gay Christians’ lives? What if friendship were able to look more familial?
If I were to describe the hope and joy I’ve found in my own gay, celibate life, I would point to moments where that shift has happened in my friendships. I talk about some of those moments in my new book Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian.
For instance, there was the time when my friend Jono called me and asked me to be a godfather to his and his wife Megan’s daughter Callie. Jono and Megan wanted to seal, with the sacrament of baptism, my relationship to Callie and to themselves. In an email I wrote to him afterward, I said, “I take comfort from this—that, in Jesus’ economy, leaving the prospect of being a husband and father myself does not mean being without a family.”
Or there was the time when my married friends Aidan and Melanie and I, recognizing how much we’d come to mean to each other, asked our minister friend Amy to come and pray a blessing over our friendship, solemnizing it and reminding us of the sort of commitment we’d embraced. In our living room, Amy set up an icon of Aelred of Rievaulx, the unofficial patron saint of friendship. She preached a brief homily from Psalm 121 on the theme of pilgrimage. “You three are companions on a pilgrimage to the heavenly city,” she said. And then she consecrated bread and wine on our coffee table, pointing us to the ultimate Friend who gave his body and blood to make our love for each other possible.
In those moments, among others, I’ve remembered those words I read several years ago from Tushnet’s blog: there is “a need and desire for friendships to become, over time, understood as given.” Thankfully, in Christ, they can be.
To learn more about Spiritual Friendship, click here.
April 3, 2015 By trinity.graeser
View the video of their conversation about being diagnosed with incurable cancer in the prime of life here.
One Billings’s articles was translated into Portugese for Reforma21.
Christianity Today featured Ronald Sider and his new book, Nonviolent Action, in their April 2015 issue: “My Top 5 Books on Nonviolence.”
In Nonviolent Action: What Christian Ethics Demands But Most Christians Have Never Really Tried (Brazos Press), the author of the now-classic Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger makes the biblical case for pursuing peaceful alternatives to conflict.
Here, Sider chooses 5 books on how nonviolence really works.
Read the entire article here.
Christianity Today included Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory by Jerry L. Walls as one of their April 2015 “New & Noteworthy Books.”
Walls, who teaches philosophy at Houston Baptist University, has written a trio of scholarly books defending the doctrines of heaven, hell, and—more controversially among Protestants—purgatory. Here, he packages those arguments into a single volume pitched at ordinary readers, delivered at a moment when debates about the hereafter have picked up steam.
“The Christian story is extraordinary, to be sure,” Walls maintains, “but it is radically incomplete and ultimately unsatisfying without a robust doctrine of the afterlife, and one simply cannot seriously affirm Trinity, incarnation, atonement, and resurrection without going on to heartily affirm ‘the life everlasting.’ ”
April 1, 2015 By trinity.graeser
This excerpt comes from Psalms for All Seasons, commenting on Psalm 136:
The specific references in the psalm extend to each of the first five books of the Bible, making this psalm a response to the entirety of Torah.
The second half of each verse is an acclamation of praise appropriate for use by the assembly.
This narrative or history-telling prayer follows a similar form to Christian prayers at the Lord’s Supper.
A prayer for reflection:
your love is a banner unfurled over all times and places.
Help us to live into the story of your redemption,
joining the cast of those called to love and serve in your name.
All glory be to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
©2012 Faith Alive Christian Resources. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.
March 30, 2015 By trinity.graeser
Friendship is a relationship like no other. Unlike the relationships we are born into, we choose our friends. It is also tenuous—we can end a friendship at any time. But should friendship be so free and unconstrained? Although our culture tends to pay more attention to romantic love, marriage, family, and other forms of community, friendship is a genuine love in its own right. This eloquent book reminds us that Scripture and tradition have a high view of friendship. Single Christians, particularly those who are gay and celibate, may find it is a form of love to which they are especially called.
Writing with deep empathy and with fidelity to historic Christian teaching, Wesley Hill retrieves a rich understanding of friendship as a spiritual vocation and explains how the church can foster friendship as a basic component of Christian discipleship. He helps us reimagine friendship as a robust form of love that is worthy of honor and attention in communities of faith. This book sets forth a positive calling for celibate gay Christians and suggests practical ways for all Christians to cultivate stronger friendships.
Wesley Hill (PhD, University of Durham) is assistant professor of biblical studies at Trinity School for Ministry. He is the author of Paul and the Trinity: Persons, Relations, and the Pauline Letters and the much-discussed Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality.
Hill is on the editorial board of and is a columnist for Christianity Today. He also contributes to Books & Culture and First Things.
Praise for Spiritual Friendship:
“Wesley Hill’s courageous, thought provoking book seeks to recover ‘friendship as a genuine love in its own right.’ At one level, it is a historically rooted and theologically nuanced essay that opens up fresh perspectives on a topic that is crucial but too rarely pondered. But at another level, Spiritual Friendship belongs to the classic genre of Christian confessional autobiography, a genre that can be traced back to St. Augustine; it is both searing in its honesty and moving in its chastened hope for grace. This is a book that challenges all of us—whatever our sexual experience or longings may be—to think more truthfully about the meaning of love and the complex ways in which our communities either stifle or nurture it.”
—Richard B. Hays, dean and George Washington Ivey Professor of New Testament, Duke Divinity School
“This is a remarkable book. Drawing on a deep reservoir of biblical wisdom and theological imagination, Wesley Hill explores the possibilities for a truly Christian picture of friendship. And because this exploration requires him to think also about how his friendship both contributes to and differs from the fellowship that all Christians share, he makes here a significant contribution to the general theology of the church as well. Here is a book everyone interested in Christianity, and everyone interested in friendship, can profit from reading.”
—Alan Jacobs, Honors College, Baylor University
“Medieval monks expressed their love for one another with what to us is cringe-inducing intimacy, and not so long ago Christians still entered formal bonds of friendship by taking vows that sound like marriage vows. We don’t do that anymore, with our commitment to uncommitted freedom, our turnover habits, our sexualization of everything and everyone, and our resignation to loneliness. Wesley Hill’s very personal book is an elegant, theologically rich plea on behalf of the love of friendship that uncovers fresh ways to improvise on a lost Christian tradition of committed spiritual friendship.”
—Peter Leithart, president, Theopolis Institute, Birmingham, Alabama
“Spiritual Friendship weaves together Scripture, Christian history, art, and personal experience. This is a portrait, not a treatise. It depicts friendship’s flaws and failures but also shows how friendship can bear spiritual fruit and help us build up the kingdom of God. Wesley Hill challenges us all to strengthen our own friendships and those around us and offers guidance in these tasks from his own experience and from the Christian past. Honest and poignant, Spiritual Friendship is like a conversation with a good friend who has learned much from books but more from loving and being loved by others.”
—Eve Tushnet, author of Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith
“Love is the most complicated thing in the world–and even more so for gay and lesbian Christians who have experienced a vocation to celibacy. With disarming frankness, Wesley Hill charts the loss of friendship from our world and mounts a compelling case for its recovery as a communally celebrated form of Christian love. Hill’s is a voice that needs to be heard. His book is a powerful challenge to the contemporary church as well as a profound meditation on the difficult, wonderful, risky business of loving and being loved.”
—Benjamin Myers, Charles Sturt University, Sydney, Australia
“Wesley Hill not only wants to think about what friendship might mean for a celibate gay Christian but indeed wants to recover a richer, more substantive, and especially more promising understanding of friendship for everyone. In a highly engaging and very accessible manner, Hill uses examples from art, literature, film, and especially his own life to explore what in our culture today most endangers friendship, how Christianity redefines our understanding of friendship, and how our churches can be the best settings for nurturing the faithful, challenging, and blessed relationships Hill presents to us. Spiritual Friendship is a timely gift the reader will quickly take to heart.”
—Paul J. Wadell, professor of theology and religious studies, St. Norbert College; author of Becoming Friends: Worship, Justice, and the Practice of Christian Friendship
“This book is a rare find! Hill eloquently speaks into one of the great spiritual crises of our day: the meaning of love and specifically of friendship in Christ. This courageous personal and theological account of friendship will both challenge and illuminate those seeking to renew the church’s witness today. Hill gives us a glimpse of what we’ve forgotten–a rich Christian vision of friendship. Whether readers agree or disagree with Hill’s theological vision, there is no doubt that this book will be a conversation changer!”
—J. Todd Billings, Gordon H. Girod Research Professor of Reformed Theology, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan
“Wesley Hill captured my imagination by presenting a vision of friendship—spiritual friendship—that has been our Christian heritage. Each of us who make up the body of Christ will be enriched and our corporate witness to a broader culture enhanced if we can find a way to live into this vision.”
—Mark A. Yarhouse, Rosemarie S. Hughes Endowed Chair and professor of psychology, Regent University
“Too gay for some and too chaste for others, for many Wesley Hill is not supposed to exist. But exist he does, even to flourishing. Challenging settled convictions on all sides of the sexuality debate, he testifies here—alongside countless celibate Christians before him—to the richness of intimate friendships that dare violate our society’s sole remaining commandment: ‘Thou shalt have sex.'”
—Matthew Milliner, Wheaton College
March 27, 2015 By trinity.graeser
J. Todd Billings, author of Rejoicing in Lament, wrote “Why Doesn’t God Always Heal? Prayer and Incurable Cancer” for Huffington Post Religion.
“If God desires our well-being, why doesn’t he always grant prayers for healing?
“‘There’s no doubt about your diagnosis,’ the doctor told me.
“I squirmed in my chair as I heard the numbers: according to the calculus of medical predications, my young children would most likely lose their dad in their childhood. It’s an incurable, lethal cancer.
“But as a Christian, I wondered – should ‘incurable’ really be part of my vocabulary? What about God’s power and prayer?”
Read the entire article here.
Billings was mentioned by Her.meneutics.
Wesley Hill was interviewed and lectured at Moore College.
Good News for Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don’t Have to Do by Phillip Cary is on sale for $1.99 (88% off) from participating retailers through March 31.