In May 2006 Eric J. Iliff received his MDiv from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary with a thesis entitled, “Homosexuality and the Eastern Orthodox Christian Tradition” (available at Theological Research Exchange Network). In December of that year he posted the following message to the now defunct Homosexuality and Christianity Yahoo! Group. It rings authentic precisely because it is so unpolished, so obviously the spontaneous outpouring of a pure heart.
On March 13, 2007 he took his life in a motel room surrounded by his icons, Bible, and prayer book. October 11, 2017 would have been his 36th birthday.
May the voice of this gentle and unobtrusive young man be heard even from the grave. May he not have lived and died in vain.
Memory eternal. Memory eternal. Memory eternal.
[Chastity] is a much more subtle concept [than celibacy], I believe. It denotes continence within ones life, which involves the moral lifestyle within which one lives…. Celibacy as a gay Christian is a choice…. BUT, but, but, chastity should be what ALL Christians strive for and ultimately all fall short of, because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Chastity would involve directing ones heart towards God with all ones senses, not just the genitals. Ones eyes, hands, mouth…would all be involved in chastity. It involves holy aloneness before God, and isnt to be despised. [Chastity] is a universal calling for all Christians, gay or straight, while [celibacy] is a more specific calling of a few. Some other Christians would disagree with what Ive said, saying ALL gay Christians must be celibate…. I dont advocate that, nor do I think Peter [Giacomo Sanfilippo] was, in fact Im sure he doesnt…. Many gay persons have been burnt by the universal call to celibacy, and feel that this is as unnatural as their homosexuality is believed to be…. Human beings, good ol homo sapiens, need human companionship, whether gay, straight, or anything else. They react with some level of, and sometimes total, moral ambiguity about holiness or chastity within gay relationships for reasons we may not agree with, but certainly can try and understand and empathize with…. It is darn difficult to sort through these issues of celibacy, chastity, and much moreover, just what does chastity mean within a gay relationship? These processes, for lack of a better term, I believe are at the core of why so many formerly churched and believing Christians leave their churches, and worse, leave their faith in Jesus Christ, when they come to terms with their homosexuality. We must attempt to understand as best we can why these things happen, and empathize with Christian love, thereby sending the message that the gay Christian is still loved by God and loved by his fellow Christians, gay or straight.
The full text from which the above excerpts were taken has been subsequently found. It can be read here.
See “In Memoriam: Eric J. Iliff” here.