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Document Details :
Title: Interchurch Marriages
Subtitle: An Orthodox Perspective
Author(s): PASAVOS, Lewis J. , JOANIDES, Charles J.
Journal: Marriage, Families & Spirituality
Volume: 6 Issue: 2 Date: Autumn 2000
The first part of this paper provides a succinct overview of Orthodox canonical and theological presuppositions and assumptions as they pertain to interchurch marriages. The second part discusses some salient results from the Intermarriage Research Project (IRP) sponsored by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA).
It is maintained that the Orthodox Church's position toward interchurch marriages can only be comprehended from its theological and canonical understanding of marriage. As such, several ancient canons addressing interchurch marriages are discussed. These canons generally prohibit such marriages on the grounds that couples are unable to participate in a common liturgical and sacramental life.
Despite these canons, interchurch marriages involving Orthodox and non-Orthodox Christians, have been permitted since the end of the 19th century so long as a couple was willing to accept certain preconditions. This contemporary canonical discipline governing interchurch marriages within the Orthodox Church reflects an awareness of existing realities. Not only is it conditioned by the Church's compassion and pastoral sensitivity, but also by her concern for the stability of the family.
The number of interfaith marriages occurring in the Orthodox Church varies from one segment of the Church to another other. Where Orthodox faithful are embedded in predominantly multicultural, multi religious countries, interchurch marriages are far more frequent. For example, statistics kept by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA) indicate that two of every three marriages (66%) presently conducted in its churches are inter Christian.
Given these and other similar statistics, the GOA recently commissioned an Intermarriage Research Project (IRP) to examine these trends more carefully. Results from the IRP suggest that interchurch couples' challenges are qualitatively different than the challenges that single faith Orthodox marriages and families encounter. Results also suggest that Orthodox theologians will be challenged to discover ways of ministering more effectively to this growing population of couples and families, while also protecting the Orthodox Church's theological integrity. Results further indicate that the GOA cannot afford to view these postmodern trends as a threat, but must rather seek to conceptualize the growing numbers of such marriages and families as an opportunity for stability and growth. Developing programs and making the needed adjustments to minister more effectively to interchurch marriages will challenge and stretch the GOA's perception of ministry.