This study addresses the urgent issue of religiously mixed marriages in American Eastern Orthodox Churches. Intermarried couples have growing presence and impact on all Christian denominations in the United States. Yet, in the case of American Orthodoxy this phenomena is more complex and challenging, because of the strict rules surrounding intermarriage in the Orthodox Church, because of the very distinct religious identity and patterns of Church life, and because of the interplay between the ethnic and religious contexts. This study will focus specifically on the life experiences of mixed (Orthodox - non-Orthodox) couples who belong to generations X (born 1965-1980) and Millennials (born after 1980).
The study will address three broad questions:
How much and what specific efforts at welcoming, evangelization and, possibly, conversion do the American Orthodox parishes venture with regard to the non-Orthodox spouses of their parishioners?
What are the greatest challenges that intermarried couples have to overcome in order not only “survive” in an Orthodox parish but also become truly “interchurch” families as defined above?
How Orthodox and non-Orthodox spouse (and, possibly, their churches) benefit from one another’s church affiliation and participation?
Special attempt will be made to look at the intermarriages not only as a problem but also as an opportunity to enrich the lives of the mixed families and to enhance their congregations and the Church at large. The major research procedure will be focus groups with intermarried couples and in-depth interview with clergy in selected local Orthodox parishes. The outcomes from this study will be widely used by the Departments of Interfaith and Ecumenical Relations and Religious Education of the participating Orthodox Churches and by the newly established American Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops.