Yeshuaisiam, can I ask -- is it the idea of any barrier between the altar and the nave whatsoever that is problematic, or is it only a barrier which substantially blocks the view of the altar and/or is covered in iconography?
In short, would a simple rope barrier cause you the same consternation?
I am not asking facetiously -- I think your answer will help us shape a response or help you find what you're looking for in the responses already offered.
It's the idea of a barrier period. I've seen many Eastern Orthodox churches. I've seen many full blown churches with "iconostasises" to little home churches with just a couple icons used as a "sort of iconostasis", all the way to absolutely no iconostasis.
Yes, why the barrier itself be it a rope or iconostasis. The barrier that separates? Its the concept that it was never used by the church fathers or the apostles. It's not that I'm "against" it, but more like "what's the point of it and how does it help our faith & worship" along with "why was it incepted, used, and when"?
Perfectly good answers to your question have already been provided. If you are of a mind that the Church should not do or believe anything that is not proscribed in the New Testament, you would be one of many Protestant sects.
My friend, that is not how a family, a Church that is the Body of Christ, would work. I am of one mind with Father Schmemann of blessed memory and "always question" everything, but like Father Alexander, I do so within the framework of the Church, Her Holy Tradition. I try to figure out what is essential, even if it is not present in the Holy Scriptures, try to discern the principles and then interpret beliefs and practices in their light. The Holy Scriptures play the greatest part in this quest of discerning what is Tradition with a capital "T" and merely pious custom--that is, tradition with a small "t".
So, given the Holy Scriptures, archeological and historical evidence, the writings of the Early Fathers, our liturgical practices, icons, and architectural developments over the centuries, I believe that there was indeed four distinct (may be even five) areas in the early churches, that were patterned on the Temple. It appears that the icon stand developed over the centuries in line with the original practice and principles: A Holy of Holies, a place for worshipers, another for catechumens, and a baptistry. It is true that the icon stand became more like a solid wall, and actually grew in height over the centuries. No matter, the pattern and the principles were not altered materially. Therefore, I would be just as much "at home" in a Church that had only curtains, true icon stands with no doors whatsoever, or a Slavic type that has all the latest bells and whistles, so to speak. An analogy may be an automobile: all kinds of styles but essentially the same machine, no?
So, why bother yourself with what is a matter of not ultimate consequence? There always was an altar, an area that was set aside, our Christian Holy of Holies, that was restricted to those who had a need to be there. If you feel the need to be there, perhaps you should pray to the Lord for a calling.
The real problem here may be your unwillingness to accept an authority higher than yourself, or an authority between you and God. Again, if you are to be a member of this family, perhaps a starting rule ought to be to defer to the family, or at least to consider her stance before you decide to form your own path. I pray that the Lord is with you on your spiritual journey and that His Will be done.