INTERCHURCH / INTERFAITH MARRIAGES
Rev. Fr. Charles Joanides, Ph.D., LMFT., Researcher
Over the past 22 years the percentage of inter Christian marriages conducted in the GOA has steadily increased from 46% to 64%. It should also be noted here that Archdiocesan statistics only reflect those weddings performed in the GOA, and do not account for those persons who identify themselves as Greek Orthodox who have chosen to marry outside of the church. When these marriages are also considered, intermarriage rates may be closer to 75 - 80%.
Given these and other similar statistics, the Archdiocese has chosen to conceptualize these trends as an opportunity for growth rather than a problem. With love toward all, and with a vigor to witness Orthodoxy to all persons who choose to worship in the GOA, the Archdiocese has taken a proactive approach in its efforts to reach out to intermarried couples and their families.
To be more specific, since the 1970s, both clergy and laity have expressed deep concern for interfaith families in our Church. At the 32nd and 33rd Clergy-Laity congresses, meetings were convened and reports were given that acknowledged the difficulties many of these marriages and families face. In 1994, Holy Cross Seminary held a conference on this topic, and from this conference a book was published entitled, Intermarriage: Orthodox Perspectives.
In 1997, the Archdiocese determined to embark on a systematic study of the inter-Christian marriages across our Archdiocese. Moreover, as a result of this research, the following deliverables have emerged.
* An Interfaith Marriage Web site has been established which (a) provides results from the Interfaith Research Project (IRP), (b) offers interfaith couples and other interested persons opportunities to offer feedback, and (c) affords persons the latitude to ask questions and generate conversation in two different chat rooms.
* A regular column has been featured in the in the Orthodox Observer whose objectives have been to share the results from the IRP with our faithful.
* In collaboration with the Department of Religious Education (DRE), articles and videos addressing the interfaith marriage challenge have been produced and are now available through the DRE.
* A manual for clergy and lay leaders is well on its way toward completion.
* A manual for interfaith spouses and their families is close to completion.
* Teaching seminars have been conducted around our country for clergy, laity, and interfaith couples. Those desiring more information about these workshops may contact Rev. Dr. Charles Joanides.
Furthermore, the underlying purpose behind this work has been grounded on the following additional objectives.
1 . To assist the GOA at the Archdiocesan, Diocesan and local church level in its efforts to reach out to intermarried spouses, couples, and their families.
2. To Positively impact GOA members' attitudes toward interfaith marriages.
3. To foster an environment of tolerance and acceptance for all individuals, couples and families who choose to worship in the GOA.
4. To educate clergy and laity concerning the unique spousal, marital and familial challenges that this growing population of faithful face in their efforts to worship in our churches.