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Author Topic: Mixed Marriage  (Read 574 times) Average Rating: 0
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UnderTruth
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« on: September 11, 2012, 04:39:03 AM »

Hi there!

I was wondering what to do in a tough situation I find myself in.
My girlfriend and I are increasingly moving towards marriage (the planning stages, at least), and I am thankful to God for it.
However, she is Evangelical (as I used to be--I am still not yet chrismated), and while she has said she would convert to Orthodoxy if she were convinced of it, she said she has difficulty envisioning that happening. Obviously, this is not the ideal situation.
So I guess--and yes, I am going to talk to my priest!--I am just not sure what to do on several things here:

1. The ceremony itself. If I were to be married by her pastor (she has a longer history with her pastor than I do with my priest), would I be permanently excommunicating myself? Is it effectively self-damnation? Permanent "catechumen" status? Eventually able to receive communion?

2. Can I even be married in an Orthodox ceremony as a catechumen? If not, could I be chrismated sometime after? Or am I barred from receiving communion (like because the marriage is seen as invalid)? (To be fair, while I'm 80-90% sure, there are still a few matters of doctrine which I do not understand, and they tend to be the same sort as prevent her from actively seeking to join as well--Mary stuff, sacramental theology, etc.)

3. If we were to be married by an Orthodox priest, would her pastor be able to play any role, even if only done separately (before or after) from the ceremony?

4. Are even, say, fully-Orthodox marriages, able to be performed outside the church building (like in a forest)? If not, what of those during times of persecution? Or would that be an act of economy that doesn't apply?

5. What are the thoughts about raising kids in a mixed environment, as far as formal prayers and holidays? If we were somehow a "proper" mixed marriage, could future children receive communion?

I know it's a lot to ask, but hopefully this thread will be able to help other people in a similar position to mine, and it certainly would help me sort things out. And yes, I know. I will talk with the priest!
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jmbejdl
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« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2012, 05:04:00 AM »

I was in a slightly different position to you but I was not yet Orthodox when I married my cradle Orthodox wife. I'd started my catechumenate and I'd had a Trinitarian baptism, and I had to agree to raise any children Orthodox. We were married in the Orthodox church where my wife was baptised. I have no idea what your fiancee's situation might be but if she had a Trinitarian baptism and you were Orthodox you may well both be able to be married in an Orthodox church. I'd imagine that you ought to be Chrismated first but I don't know for sure. I'm pretty certain she would, like me, be asked to agree to raise any children Orthodox however and, of course, any children you had would be able to receive the Eucharist so long as you had them baptised in the Church. I was actually Chrismated shortly before my eldest was born so I was thankfully never actually in the position of raising children in a mixed household.

As for marriages outside the Church, I've always heard that they are not allowed. Civil marriage can take place anywhere (subject to your local laws), of course, and precede the religious wedding. In fact that is the norm in Romania, which is where I was married. I've no idea if Orthodox priests can legally marry you where you are (they can't to the best of my knowledge here) but even if they can there's no reason why they must. Perhaps separating the legal and religious weddings might provide you with the possibility to be married both in the Church and outside?

James
« Last Edit: September 11, 2012, 05:04:21 AM by jmbejdl » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2012, 09:32:57 AM »

1. The ceremony itself. If I were to be married by her pastor (she has a longer history with her pastor than I do with my priest), would I be permanently excommunicating myself? Is it effectively self-damnation? Permanent "catechumen" status? Eventually able to receive communion?

Your situation is complicated because you are a catechumen. Have you been officially received as one or do you merely consider yourself one?

The ideal is obviously to finish your catechumenate, become Orthodox, go to pre-marital counseling, get married in the Orthodox Church, and proceed with your married life. With prayer and patience, there's a good chance your wife would eventually decide to embrace Orthodoxy. In my experience, this happens in a significant plurality and possibly even majority of "mixed" marriages, especially ones where both husband and wife are believers and a good match.

To return to your questions: If you were already Orthodox, getting married by her pastor would indeed result in your excommunication. Right now, however, you exist in an interstitial state: not fully in or out of the Church. As such, the intent of the law is surely that you act as if you already were Orthodox. But the "letter" is not as clear. So, this is truly a case where only the specific advice of your priest and bishop can offer final clarity.

2. Can I even be married in an Orthodox ceremony as a catechumen?

No.

If not, could I be chrismated sometime after? Or am I barred from receiving communion (like because the marriage is seen as invalid)? (To be fair, while I'm 80-90% sure, there are still a few matters of doctrine which I do not understand, and they tend to be the same sort as prevent her from actively seeking to join as well--Mary stuff, sacramental theology, etc.)

If you weren't a catechumen, you could get married in a Protestant service, then later become a catechumen, then Orthodox, etc. with no problem. Since you have already pledged yourself to the Church, your situation is different. You can't do anything of this magnitude without seeking the specific advice and approval of your priest (and, by extension, bishop). It's theoretically possible they could have you get married as a Protestant before converting; also possible they could say no to that route.

3. If we were to be married by an Orthodox priest, would her pastor be able to play any role, even if only done separately (before or after) from the ceremony?

If you were Orthodox (not just a catechumen), you could marry a baptized, heterodox Christian. Double ceremonies are discouraged or disallowed. The ceremony would need to take place in an Orthodox church according to an Orthodox rite (not at all like the wedding service your bride is familiar with or probably wants). Your fiance's pastor could not participate actively in the ceremony, but, according to the ecumenical guidelines promulgated by the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, the pastor could be invited to give words of exhortation and benediction after the ceremony itself had been completed. These guidelines represent the majority practice in North America, but not every jurisdiction or parish is the same. Ultimately, such examples of oikonomia are up to each particular bishop. So, you'll have to ask. If you want to read the guidelines, see pages 23 and 24 of the document: http://www.scoba.us/assets/files/guide_for_orthodox.pdf

4. Are even, say, fully-Orthodox marriages, able to be performed outside the church building (like in a forest)? If not, what of those during times of persecution? Or would that be an act of economy that doesn't apply?

No. Marriage ceremonies must take place in an Orthodox church. Exceptions during times of persecution do not produce a rule for today.

5. What are the thoughts about raising kids in a mixed environment, as far as formal prayers and holidays?

It is *very* difficult but possible. When done right, it works and might even lead to the heterodox spouse becoming Orthodox. When done wrong, it is a source of major marital tension and even divorce. Many resources are available here: http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/marriage/interfaith

If we were somehow a "proper" mixed marriage, could future children receive communion?

Yes.
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« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2012, 09:41:17 AM »

If we were somehow a "proper" mixed marriage, could future children receive communion?

Yes.
[/quote]

Not quite: The answer is "yes" only if the children have been baptised into the Orthodox Church. If they have not been baptized at all, or baptized into a non-Orthodox faith or tradition, they cannot receive Orthodox communion.

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pensateomnia
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« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2012, 09:49:57 AM »

If we were somehow a "proper" mixed marriage, could future children receive communion?

Yes.

Not quite: The answer is "yes" only if the children have been baptised into the Orthodox Church. If they have not been baptized at all, or baptized into a non-Orthodox faith or tradition, they cannot receive Orthodox communion.



Yes, so they *could*. The question is about possibilities. And, in particular, the possibilities that flow from a "proper" mixed marriage, one requirement of which is doing as you say.

A further note to the OP: In re-reading the ecumenical guidelines, I see this line: "Permission to perform this sacrament in another church building or in some neutral place must be granted by the Bishop." So, it's on the books, so to speak. However, I have never seen an example of this in any jurisdiction.
« Last Edit: September 11, 2012, 09:50:13 AM by pensateomnia » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2012, 09:50:12 AM »

I urge you to talk to your priest asap and get his advice and counsel. It is vitally important that you and your fiancee discuss these matters thoroughly, openly and honestly and come to an understanding now, rather than later after you are married.

My parents were of differing faiths though both were Christian, and while they treated each other and each other's beliefs with unfailing respect and love, it was difficult and scary as a child to go to church with just one or the other and not both parents.

For myself, my faith is the deepest, truest part of my being and it is of paramount importance that my husband and I share the same faith. While we experience and express our faith according to our own individual personalities (I'm a theology geek, more thinky and talky, while he is practical and hands-on), we have been through a lot together, and it is our faith that has sustained us and our marriage.

I would never want my faith to be a source of friction or disagreement or compromise in my marriage.
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« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2012, 10:20:26 AM »

Run, while there is still time.
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« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2012, 10:29:22 AM »

Bring her to the Orthodox Church and see if she is will to join with you. But dont get married fast. See if she is ready to follow you; if not, don't get married to her.
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NicholasMyra
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« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2012, 02:29:33 PM »

Are even, say, fully-Orthodox marriages, able to be performed outside the church building (like in a forest)?

Orthodox do liturgies in the forest and in fields and such. I don't see what would prevent a marriage ceremony.

Although dragging the churchmembers out into the woods to fulfill some sort of marriage fantasy doesn't seem like a very Christian thing to do.  Wink
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« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2012, 01:47:06 AM »

Thank you for all the replies! I am glad to hear that there may yet be a possibility here, as we have grown in our Christian walks together during our relationship, and in such a way as seems to confirm (both generally and by means of odd "coincidences") that we were led to each other.

I do feel embarrassed, though, to have been going to an Orthodox church with varying degrees of regularity for ~1 year & 9 months (2 this Spring), and yet to have used the term "catechumen" in a misleading way. I am more like a constant visitor--I have not yet begun classes or any formal process. I only mean that I do very strongly plan on it, and have discussed it with my priest a couple of times. As far as I have been able to come to know, I agree with Orthodoxy, though admittedly with some ignorance about a few matters (Mary, sacraments, etc.), so I usually tell people I am "orthodox in ideas".

Given that, while I don't want to act like I'm trying to fake God out (say, by marrying Protestant, and then converting formally), I may pursue some such route, which would be especially appealing to me, as, while I lack an understanding as to *why* the Eucharist is what it is in the spiritual life, I submit to the clear teaching of its importance by the Church in all times, and hope to learn, and thus would like to be able to partake, and to have my children do so, too. (Though I don't know what the situation would be if I married, converted, and then had kids. If I were able to take communion, but they were born into a Protestant-officiated marriage, could they commune?)

But then, this isn't the right thread to ask for an introductory explanation of sacramental theology, I suppose.

Thank you again for all the replies, and I welcome any other comments.

As I said, I am going to definitely consult my priest, and she, her pastor, prior to moving ahead with things. I know he would have a lot of wisdom to offer, and I see that many details would possibly be matters of the situation, though one should assume the rule, rather than the exception.
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« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2012, 01:57:24 AM »

But then, this isn't the right thread to ask for an introductory explanation of sacramental theology, I suppose.

Someone may give you an overview of the Sacraments of the Orthodox Church in this thread; however, the forum also has a search function and Tags if you wish to find threads pertaining to the topic.

Thank you again for all the replies, and I welcome any other comments.

I wouldn't identify myself a Greek Orthodox Christian unless I was a baptized Orthodox Christian.  Otherwise, if I were at least a cathecumen, I would identify myself only as a cathecumen.  If I weren't a cathecumen but interested in Orthodox Christianity, then I would call myself an inquirer.  That way, I wouldn't be misleading people as to what I believe.   Smiley
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UnderTruth
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« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2012, 02:15:55 AM »

Should I change what it says by my name on forum posts? (Not sure what to call it; my "declared faith"?)
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jmbejdl
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« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2012, 04:08:02 AM »

(Though I don't know what the situation would be if I married, converted, and then had kids. If I were able to take communion, but they were born into a Protestant-officiated marriage, could they commune?)

As I said before, as long as your children receive an Orthodox baptism they can receive the Eucharist. If they don't they can't. Whether your marriage was conducted inside the Church after conversion or outside the Church before conversion is of absolutely no consequence to any future children you might have. Having said that, I really would recommend that you talk to the priest about all of this. I have no idea whether he would think marrying prior to conversion is a good idea under your circumstances or not, but you should definitely take his advice if you are serious about conversion.

James
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