Main Menu  

Open menu

International Conference

Keynote Sessions and Speakers

United in Baptism and Marriage
Dr. Eileen Scully
Andrew & Natalie Cook
What does it mean to be baptized into the Body of Christ?  How is the unity of our baptism enhanced by our marriage?  What does it mean when scripture and our churches say that 'the two shall become one'?

Dr. Eileen Scully is an Anglican, who earned her doctorate in Systematic Theology from St. Michael's College, Toronto (Roman Catholic). She held the position of Associate Secretary for Faith and Witness with the Canadian Council of Churches from 1995-2000, where she facilitated theological dialogue among representatives of the member churches of the Council. One of the Council's projects during that time was the production of an ecumenical resource on Christian marriage, Together in Christ

A lecturer in Theology at Huron College, London, Ontario, Eileen serves on several national committees of the Anglican Church of Canada, and has recently been appointed to the international Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission.. She is involved in relationship-building with First Nations people in her diocese. Eileen is married to Eric Duerrstein, who comes from the Mennonite Brethren church. 

The family lives in Waterloo, Ontario, where the children are able to enjoy the inherited traditions of both their sets of grandparents.

  Andrew & Natalie Cook (their names have been changed to respect sensitivities within their local and family situations) have been living an interchurch life for over 10 years. Andrew is baptized Lutheran (Evangelical) and Natalie is baptized Roman Catholic. Throughout their marriage they have maintained separate memberships in both churches. They share both Christian traditions with their children.

They believe that it is their faith in Christ that brought them together. They feel strongly about working towards Christian unity. They hoped one day to form a support group for other interchurch couples where they could socialize and share their story. In September 2000, their dream was realized when they became the lead couple of an Interchurch Families group. The support and fellowship the group provides has enriched their lives tremendously.

Unity and Communion
Br. Gilles Bourdeau
(English & French)
Craig & Michele Buchanan
(English & French)
We are called to unity, as couples, with our churches, and our churches with each other.  We are also called to communion, which includes, but is not limited to, eucharist.  How do we as couples live this reality of communion?  Does our experience of unity and communion have something to offer our churches?
Gilles Bourdeau was born in Quebec, and since 1962 has been a member of the Order of the Friars Minor.  He was ordained in May, 1967.  Following studies at St. Michael's College in Toronto (M.A.) and at the Faculté de théologique de l'Université de Montréal (Ph.D.), he taught spirituality at the Dominican Pastoral Institute in Montreal.  Many people have experienced his competence as a speaker, a retreat preacher, a spiritual director, and a counsellor for Christian groups and movements.  Several periodicals have recognized his talents as a writer.

From 1971 to 1987, he co-animated a Franciscan community whose focus was spiritual experience and contemplation.  Within his order, he has served in various positions of responsibility in the formation of new members and in government: Novice Master, Formation Director, and Provincial Minister (1987-1991) for the Franciscans in Eastern Canada.  He served for six years as a member of the order's international leadership team in Rome (with its 20,000 members located in 105 countries and on every continent); there he was Vicar General, responsible for the order's diplomatic relations, and Vice-Chancellor of the Pontifical Athenaeum Antonianum.  He returned to Canada in the summer of 1997.  Since October 1999, he is the Director of the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism, Montreal.


Craig and Michèle Buchanan met while attending McGill University and were married two years after graduation in 1982.

Michèle is Roman Catholic while Craig is a member of the United Church of Canada although he did spend some of his high school and college years attending an evangelical church. They have 4 girls (Linda, Francine, Sandra, and Rachel) ranging in age from 5 to 18. 

Throughout their marriage they have regularly attended each other's churches as a family and their children are active in the youth and children's programs in both churches. They currently attend St. John' s United Church and St. Edward the Confessor Roman Catholic Mission which share the same building in Pointe Claire, Quebec. They have experienced the joys and the frustrations of baptism, first communion and confirmation for their children through the two church traditions. 

Craig and Michèle are founding members of the Association of Interchurch Families in Montreal and of the Canadian Association of Interchurch Families. Craig is currently serving a second two year term on the Board of Directors for the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism.

The Path Travelled, Past and Future
Bishop Marc Ouellet
Rev. Canon Martin Reardon &
 Dr. Ruth Reardon
In the growing ecumenical climate, our churches have come a great distance in the last century.  We celebrate that movement, even while we look to possible future directions.

Bishop Marc Ouellet PSS, Secretary to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, will join the conference for August 3rd and 4th.  Bishop Ouellet replaces Cardinal Walter Kasper as Secretary of the Council

Bishop Ouellet was born in 1944 in La Motte, Québec, ordained to the priesthood in 1968 as a member of the Company of Saint Sulpice, served as rector at the Grande Séminaire de Montréal from 1990-1994, and of St. Joseph’s Seminary  in Edmonton from 1994-1997. He is Chairman of Dogmatic Theology at the John Paul II Institute of the Pontifical Lateran University of Rome.  From 1995 to 2000, Father Ouellet was a consultor for the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy.

In October 1995, Bishop-elect Ouellet acted as a resource person on the spirituality of diocesan priests for the annual plenary meeting of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, held that year in Edmonton, Alberta.

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity is entrusted with the promotion within the Catholic Church of an authentic ecumenical spirit and to develop dialogue and collaboration with the other Churches and world communions.


Martin Reardon, an Anglican priest, was sent in 1960 by the Church of England for a year to Louvain University, Belgium, to make contact with Roman Catholic theology following the calling of the Second Vatican Council by Pope John XXIII. There he met Ruth, a Roman Catholic; they married in Louvain in 1964. They lived for seven years in Sheffield, where Martin was Secretary of the Council of Churches. Ruth edited the Catholic ecumenical quarterly One in Christ, and became a member of the Roman Catholic Ecumenical Commission for England and Wales. 

In 1968 they were founder-members of the Association of Interchurch Families. Martin became co-chair together with Fr John Coventry SJ, and Ruth honorary secretary .In the 1970s Martin was Sub-Warden of Lincoln Theological College, and their two children spent their early years there. In the 1980s Martin was General Secretary of the Board for Mission and Unity of the Church of England, and Ruth was Sussex Churches Ecumenical Officer. From 1990 until he retired in 1997 Martin was General Secretary of Churches Together in England. He remains AIF’s Anglican co-chair. Ruth was elected one of AIF’s presidents when she retired as honorary secretary in 2000, and continues to edit the journal and co-ordinate the work of education and representation. 

They were recently honoured with the "Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice" award for their work with interchurch families.  They now live at Turvey in Bedfordshire.

Sub-theme Sessions and Facilitators

The values behind the laws Coming face to face with church laws can be daunting, especially when laws between churches appear to conflict.  Amy will lead us in a look at the laws of various churches (especially Latin and Eastern rite Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican), to seek a better understanding of the values being celebrated and maintained.

Amy Strickland is a Catholic canon lawyer from the United States, presently doing doctoral work in canon law in Leuven, Belgium on the topic of interchurch marriages, specifically on the theological and canonical impact of considering other legislation (civil and ecclesiastical--especially Anglican and Orthodox) in marriages involving a Catholic and a person from another religious tradition.

With a passion for things ecumenical, Amy is and will always be "a Catholic who was once an Anglican," since that was a rich and rewarding time in her own spiritual journey.

From infatuation to domestic church All couples face similar issues (and sometimes minefields) as they negotiate meeting each other, dating, the wedding, and issues of children's baptism, religious education, etc.  To thus minefield, add the hoops and hurdles of differing (and sometimes conflicting) religious experiences and expectations.  As can easily be understood, negotiating hoops and hurdles in the midst of a minefield can be a challenge!

In this session, we will explore the interchurch journey from initial infatuation through to becoming 'domestic church'.

Edouard & Joy Bedard, with Nick Jesson

Edouard & Joy Bedard, with
Richard & Helen Connell

In the first of two session, Edouard and Joy will facilitate a discussion on the journey from infatuation through marriage.  Nick Jesson, a Roman Catholic who has been a long-time friend of interchurch families, and now himself marrying Amanda, a Presbyterian minister, will share with us their experience of negotiating the 'hoops and hurdles of interchurch relationships' while in the minefield of marriage preparation.

In the second session, Richard and Helen Connell will share with us their experience of baptizing their child in a ceremony which included the participation of clergy from both their traditions.

Working through first communion A child's first experience of eucharist should be a wonderful time.  How does a child relate to two different traditions, especially when the age for communion may vary considerably between those two traditions?  How do the parents help the child deal with the questions the child may face from other children, adults, or even pastors?

Rufus and Elizabeth Ballaster were both born in 1963 & married one another in 1986.  Rufus is Anglican by upbringing (Church of England/ United Reformed Church parents and himself a confirmed Anglican) and Liz Roman Catholic by upbringing and each has retained that church membership.  Rufus and Liz are convinced that their shared Christianity is more important, more powerful and more real than any division which is said to exist by reason of their differing denominational ties.

They have three children: Thomas (1994) Joanna (1996) and Deborah (1999), and live in Beckenham (part of South East London) England.  For the first ten years of their marriage, they had such good pastoral support in RC and C of E parishes that they did not join AIF; after moving house and seeking welcome in new parishes - shortly before publication of "One Bread One Body" by the RC Bishops Committees of various parts of Britain - Rufus and Liz became members of the organisation and have enjoyed the support, fellowship and love of fellow travelers on this journey in faith.

Confirming moments Confirmation brings with it a time of real thought for children, as they grow in understanding of their faith and what it means to belong to the Body of Christ.  Our interchurch children are no different, except that they find themselves often dealing with two churches, with sometimes different understandings.  In dealing with the questions surrounding confirmation, they are challenging their churches to clarify their understanding and theology.  

This session will help youth and their parents look at the issues, discover how our children are dealing with these issues, and discuss how we may walk with them in their decisions.


Richard and Melanie Finch from Derbyshire, England, have been married for 26 years and members of English AIF since they were engaged.  Their children Jonathan (19) and Laura (17), were baptized using a rite involving both the Catholic and Anglican communities of their parents.  They have grown up to take a full part in both those communities.

There is no blueprint for the Confirmation of interchurch children.  They make their own decisions when the Holy Spirit calls them to take adult responsibility for their faith.  Exploring and developing the children's growing commitment to their Christian faith and to the Church has been an ongoing parenting task, and Richard and Melanie have talked and prayed through each stage of Christian initiation as it has arisen within their family life.  As their children have approached adulthood, they have taken differing positions on the question of public persona commitment, while both continuing to practise their faith.

Relating to our churches Issues come and go, but the necessity to build good, open relationships with parishioners and clergy from two churches remains an ongoing task.

In addition, there is the need to be able to respond publicly to questions about the interchurch reality within the sensitivities of our various churches.


Garland Pohl is no stranger to ecumenical and interfaith relations.  Not only is she Ecumenical Officer of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Galveston-Houston, Texas, she is also the first woman, and the first non-ordained person, to serve as President of the National Association of Diocesan Ecumenical Officers.  She was also the Vice-President of the Texas Conference of Churches, serving there on the Commission for Christian Unity and Interreligious Affairs and as a member on the Jewish-Christian Forum.

In addition to her ecumenical work, she is also a member of the Board of Directors of Holocaust Museum Houston since its inception in 1991, and is Past President of the Board of Directors at Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston.

In her marriage to William (Bill) Pohl, she also experiences the reality of living a relationship of committed love with someone who is not of her own Christian tradition.  Their unity has borne fruit in a son and two daughters, and eleven-month-old grandson.

Walking the spiritual journey Each of us must live a spirituality appropriate to our stage in life.  We will have the opportunity to explore our spiritual journey, discern what strengthens and calls us forward, and learn to live the journey in a manner which accurately reflects who we are.

Therese Jasmin and Julien Fradette will co-facilitate this session. 

Therese is a member of a religious community called "Holy Cross".   Woman and men affiliated to this Congregation educators, understood as a "Work of Resurrection".  Therese offers hospitality to individuals / groups who seek companionship in psycho-spiritual life directions in view of personal transformation and integration.  She works extensively with Catholics, Anglicans, and Mennonites, as well as people of other Christian traditions.

Julien is a retired civil servant in the field of education, and presently a full-time student in a Master of Divinity program.  The spiritual journey has been a lifetime interest, including a 3-year lay formation process with the Archdiocese of St. Boniface.  He now facilitates retreats and teaches adult education programs in scripture study.  His wife of 30 years, Linda, was raised in the United Church.

Both will be available throughout the conference for private discussion.

Dramatic interlude
(for the youth)
Drama can be one of the most dynamic methods of exploring seemingly abstract realities, drawing out and giving form to the underlying values.  Through this afternoon session, the youth will have an opportunity to dramatize their questions, their searches, and their discoveries - and then to share them with the rest of the conference participants.
  Geoff and Kristen Abbas were married in January 2000.  Kristen was raised as a Roman Catholic in an ecumenical charismatic community and is the oldest of nine children.  Geoff was raised in Protestant churches in the Reformed tradition, winding up in the Presbyterian church.  Their relationship was fostered from the beginning by Fr. Phillipe Thibodeau, a former director of the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism in Montreal.  

They are currently living in Brooklyn, NY, where Geoff works as a technical artist at the Wooster Group - a theater company in Manhattan, and where Kristen works as the alumni relations assistant at the Columbia University School of Social Work and as a free-lance stage manager.  They worship with the Catholic Oratorian community at St. Boniface in Brooklyn, and are still looking for a permanent Presbyterian community.  They are looking forward to their first inter-church family conference and are excited by the opportunity to share and learn with the youth.



Articles View Hits