But what about interchurch marriages? And how do they contribute to ecumenism?
Interchurch marriages create “domestic churches” where, according to some of our frail theological concepts, none should exist. That is, they create churches comprised of divided Christians. As such, according to King (and other writers), they serve as a “sign” or “instrument” of Christian unity ”“ a “foretaste of the eventual reunion of all Christians.”
Practically speaking, an interchurch couple has to shape a shared spiritual life from two traditions, “from the icons of the Orthodox to the simplicity of the Shakers, from Gothic cathedrals to Quaker meetinghouses, from austere, treatise-like homilies to charismatic, dynamic preaching, from gospel choirs to Gregorian chant, from ritualized congregational responses to spontaneous glossolalia, and from altar calls to orderly processions.” This very obviously means that they will have to learn, appreciate, and grow from the concrete experience of once foreign Christian traditions. (I can testify to this personally.) As Cardinal Mercier, who presided over the Malines Conversations between Anglicans and Catholics, once said, “In order to unite with one another, we must love one another; in order to love one another we must know one another; in order to know one another we must go and meet one another.” The search for institutional Christian unity, then, can obviously draw from the practical experiences of interchurch couples, who already have had to love, know, and truly encounter one another.
An interchurch couple’s attempts to truly live a unitive life together mean that they will have to surrender unnecessary biases and prejudices about another Christian tradition. King quotes the Salvatorian priest Jude D. Weisenbeck, “Married couples are better able than most to see their spouse’s tradition in the most favorable light. ”¦ Stereotypes and prejudices melt and flow away when other persons open their hearts to us and we to them in love. ”¦ This capacity to break down barriers can and will reach into future generations.” It can also reach priests and pastors. (In my experience, we should not underestimate the existence of these barriers on a popular level.)
Read it all.