WASHINGTON (March 1, 2002) -- Interchurch Families:Resources for Ecumenical Hope is a new book intended to assist families in which one partner is Catholic and the other is a member of a church in the Reformed tradition.
Such families "are a gift both for our churches and for the whole Church of Jesus Christ," the book says. "The creativity and longing for a unity that can be visibly manifest, often expressed by members of such families, can serve as a witness to the whole Church."
Interchurch Families: Resources for Ecumenical Hope was published under the auspices of the Catholic/Reformed Dialogue in the United States. It was edited by the dialogue's cochairs: The Reverend John C. Bush, interim pastor of Northbrook Presbyterian Church, Beverly Hills, Michigan, and Bishop Patrick R. Cooney of the Catholic Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan.
"The prayer of Jesus that 'all might be one' has certainly not been fully realized in our time," the cochairs said. "We are fortunate enough, however, to live in an era in which almost all people of religion have reached out to share in conversation with others who believe in God. People of faith are reaching out to one another in order to share their personal and communal experiences of the Holy One in the most honest way they can."
Bishop Cooney and Reverend Bush said the book on Catholic/Reformed Church marriages was the product of the sixth and latest round of a dialogue between representatives of both the Reformed Church and the Catholic Church, which began at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council in 1965. The participating Reformed Churches include the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Church of Christ, and the Reformed Church in America. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is an ecumenical partner in the process.
"In addressing the possibilities and challenges facing ecumenical families who seek to share their life of faith and worship, the members of the dialogue soon realized that many (though not all) of the concerns that arise are based on language that is often misunderstood or misinterpreted," the cochairs explained. "Much time was spent during the sessions trying to describe to the members' mutual satisfaction what we each believe and how we express that belief in practice."
"The prime intent of the participants in this dialogue was to promote and facilitate the ongoing journey toward full, visible Christian unity," wrote Rev. Bush and Bishop Cooney. "At the same time, we wished to recognize and honor those currently living in an interchurch marriage and those contemplating such a marriage. These families are at the forefront of the ecumenical experience of living together and struggling to make the prayer of Jesus a reality in their lives. We hope this publication will serve as a practical tool for families and for the clergy who assist them."
The introductory chapter portrays some issues and concerns facing an interchurch marriage. The second chapter outlines what couples, pastors, and congregations need to know in order to be supportive of such unions and to integrate them into the common Christian life shared by all in the churches. Other chapters deal with the churches' understandings of Baptism, the Church, The Covenant of Marriage, and the Eucharist.
Earlier publications produced by the Catholic/Reformed Dialogue in the United States were: Reconsiderations: Theological Conversation on Scripture, Doctrine and Ministry (1967), The Ministry of the Church (1970), Women in the Church (1972), The Unity We Seek (1977), Ethics and the Search for Christian Unity (1980), Partners in Peace and Education (1988), and Laity in the Church and in the World (1998).
Interchurch Families is published by Westminster John Knox Press and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The publication is available from the USCCB by calling toll-free 1-800-235-8722. In the Washington metropolitan area, or from outside the United States, call 202-722-8716, www.usccb.org.; or Westminster John Knox Press, 1-800-227-2872, www.wjkbooks.com.