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