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Churches Together in Marriage

 Churches Together in Marriage: Pastoral Care of Interchurch Families, London and Swansea: Churches Together in England and CYTUN, 1994, 76 pp.

The original intention of the group working on this text was to update the recommendations on pastoral care of interchurch marriages published by the Joint Working Group of the British Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church in 1970. In the context of changing church relationships and of social trends which have had considerable impact on marriage and family life, the project became more ambitious. The book has much to offer both to those concerned with ecumenical relationships and to those with an interest in marriage and the family life cycle, as well as to all involved directly in pastoral care. Interspersed with the text are guidelines to help parish priests and local ministers, and recommendations for the consideration of policy-makers. They are extracted here as an invitation to explore the issues raised with the help of this book.


1 Welcome and encourage interchurch couples who present themselves; do not regard them as disloyal for wanting to marry across Christian divisions, but see them as a positive resource in the context of growing unity between the churches.

2 See interchurch marriages as an opportunity for exercising pastoral care in a way that will have long-term benefits for relationships between local congregations.

3 Welcome both partners into the life of your church so far as they wish to be involved, respecting the fact that there may also be a loyalty to another congregation.

4 Help interchurch couples to see their differences as a source of growth rather than unfortunate obstacles to unity.

5 Encourage interchurch couples to explore how they can remain attached to their two traditions, rather than presenting them with a one-church option as the only hope of success for their marriage.

6 Realising that interchurch couples can be helped a great deal by meeting others in similar situations, inform couples of the existence of the Association of Interchurch Families and encourage them to make contact with it if they wish to do so.

7 Help engaged couples to recognise how their church loyalties and pattern of churchgoing may relate to their natural need to maintain both closeness to each other and a certain separateness.

8 Work closely with pastors of other churches in marriage preparation and support, both for interchurch couples and more generally.

9 In preparing for the wedding, look at all the options within the disciplines of the churches and do everything possible to make both partners feel at home in the service.

10 Assess with other churches the scope to increase lay involvement in marriage preparation.

11 Whatever the provision made by the churches concerned with regard to second marriages, recognise the pastoral and spiritual help that the couple together, or one of the partners, may be looking for.

12 Do everything possible to support interchurch parents who want to share the riches of both traditions with their children and bring them up within the life of two church communities; respect any feeling of double belonging on the part of the children, who should not be required to make an exclusive choice.

13 Enable those involved in marriage preparation and support to be aware of the current policies and guidelines of your own and other churches on interchurch marriage.

14 Have details of all the legal and canonical requirements for marriage for reference when needed.


That pastoral policy towards interchurch families should be based on seeing them as a promise, not a threat, and on a desire to help them to make a positive contribution to the growing together of the churches.

That the churches explore together the extent to which the sense of dual commitment/double belonging experienced by some interchurch families can be recognised pastorally and given formal expression in church discipline and structure.

That the churches look together at the "double belonging" experienced by some interchurch children and address the ecclesiological questions which this raises.

That the churches together produce catechetical material which emphasises what they have in common, but also shows where there are remaining differences.

That the churches build on what has already been done in their liturgical commissions (or equivalent) and continue to work for a common liturgy for the celebration of interchurch marriages which could be approved as appropriate.

That local churches in appropriate groupings should be encouraged to explore opportunities for celebrating baptism together.

That local churches in appropriate groupings should be encouraged to explore opportunities for joint marriage preparation using suitably prepared teams including lay people.

That local churches in appropriate groupings should be encouraged to work together to support families throughout the life cycle, wherever possible in co-operation with existing marriage and family agencies.

That the churches at national level examine what machinery is needed to help them to work together in marriage preparation and support, following up what has been done ecumenically to help the churches respond together to the International Year of the Family.



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