1. Hill gets critique from both sides of the spectrum. There are Christians who believe that, if he is attracted to the same sex, then it isn't appropriate for him to be celibate. Then there are Christians who believe that he should be moving toward opposite-sex attraction and not accepting as permanent the desires he has.
I thought there was a healthy atmosphere last night. There was no sarcasm on anyone's part. Hill was extremely judicious in all his comments, almost contemplative. One person leaned over to me during the session and said something like, "It may seem strange to say it but there seems to be a spiritual atmosphere here." From what I could tell, those there concluded that Hill's testimony was authentic and that his convictions and faith all around were genuine.
2. I did have two students ask me earlier about IWU having the session. Was this advocating for homosexuality? Did Hill believe it was okay to stay gay?
Never having met Hill or read his book, I guess at an answer to the second question. I presume Hill would say that, for whatever reason, most Christian individuals who discover they are attracted to the same sex ask God to take away those desires at some point. Most gay individuals who grow up in a Christian context struggle significantly with their desires.
But, I think he would say, very few if any find that God takes away those desires. Instead, they eventually find a way to be Christian while being attracted to the same sex. Of course the church is typically hostile toward such individuals. Many end up leaving the church. Some end up marrying which is usually disastrous (it would be interested to know what percentage of Christian divorces come from gay individuals marrying because they think it is the right thing to do).
So to one student I suggested that Hill was not advocating staying gay. I assume he has concluded that same-sex attraction just usually isn't something that God takes away from a person, for whatever reason.
3. To the question of advocacy, neither Hill nor IWU was advocating homosexuality. The Wesleyan position is that homosexual sex is sinful, but that there will be Christians in the church who are attracted to the same sex. Temptations are not sinful, choices are. Hill's commitment to celibacy is what the Wesleyan Church advocates.
It seems inevitable that there will be individuals attracted to the same-sex in our midst in the church and certainly at a university as large at IWU. Our tendency in the past has been to ignore such individuals and let them wrestle with these issues in secret, meaning that they probably floundered at some point in relation to Christianity. In our current context, it seems much more Christ-like to offer counsel and to cultivate Christ-like attitudes toward individuals like Hill in our midst.
4. Let me close by giving background to the Wesleyan position:
- The notion that someone might be gay and never have gay sex is a fairly recent paradigm shift in history. Even not too many decades ago, a homosexual would have been defined as someone who has homosexual sex. I don't think that in the 1920s, for example, a person would have been considered homosexual if they never had gay sex.
- So it is with the Bible. All references to homosexuality are references to people who have homosexual sex. None of the references have to do with some orientation abstracted from the practice of gay sex. The notion of orientation is a fairly recent one.
- So Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 refer to gay sex acts. I would argue the same for 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10. These do not refer to individuals like Hill who are celibate.
- The Sodom and Gomorrah story is about attempted same-sex rape. In cultural context, these would have been married men with children trying to do an act similar to what is notoriously said to take place in prison. A similar event is found in Judges 19 where the men of the city go on to rape a woman to death when they can't violate the man.
- Romans 1 is also about homosexual sex acts. It talks about "natural use" and "doing."
- Temptation is not sin. Action on temptation--mental or physical--is sin (James 1:15). We all face different temptations. For some it is pride. For some it is women.
- We hopefully do not struggle to the same degree with the same temptations our whole lives. But entire sanctification is not a state beyond temptation either.
Hill has chosen to follow the monastic tradition of celibacy. Following Aelred in the Middle Ages, he has written a book about the importance of friendship without a sexual component. It applies to married men who have female friends and married women who have male friends. It applies to all singles who have friendships without sex. Hill would include himself within this latter category.