This is the ninth instalment in Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s Fifty Years after Stonewall: A Virtual Listening Tour. We urge our readers to forward the articles in this series to their diocesan bishops and parish priests. We beg our hierarchy and clergy to listen, attentively, reflectively, and prayerfully.
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This is editor Giacomo Sanfilippo. I want to share my brief memories of an Orthodox boy of 15 whom I met online in 2005 or 2006. Back in the days when Yahoo! Groups was the main way to communicate with large numbers of people, I started a group called Orthodoxy and Homosexuality, later renamed Christianity and Homosexuality. Our readers will recall that it was through this group that Eric Iliff of blessed memory came into my life.
This was also how I met Justin. He must be in his late 20s by now. He found his way to the group through an online search, introduced himself to the members, and shortly afterward began to email me privately for emotional and spiritual support. The photo he sent me showed an all-American boy with silky blond hair hanging over his blue eyes, the kind of son any parents would love to call their own. He was Orthodox. He loved attending the divine services, loved God, and loved and trusted his parish priest. The priest loved him.
This all changed when Justin trusted the priest enough to come out to him as gay.
The priest was horrified. Instantly his demeanour toward Justin changed from love and affection to sternness and disapproval.
Worst of all, the priest commanded Justin in confession:
If you think the man or boy standing next to you during the Liturgy is good-looking, you must move immediately to a different part of the church.
I was livid. I told Justin so. I was sure that boys who liked girls weren’t commanded to spend the Liturgy moving around the church to flee “temptation.”
Predictably, it wasn’t long before Justin had to choose between losing his mind or leaving the Church. He left.
Eventually our correspondence dwindled to nothing. I regret not having done more to stay in touch.
Justin, if you’re reading this, I’ve never forgotten you. I pray you’re thriving. I hope you know how preciously God loves you, more and more, day by day.
Father, if you’re reading this…what I’m thinking can’t be published in a Christian forum. May God have mercy on you.
See the Fifty Years after Stonewall and extensive Sexuality and Gender sections in our Archives by Author.
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