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From Experiment to Encounter: Receiving Interchurch Families in a Synodal Church

Ryan, Diane; Ryan, Gregory A.


Diane Ryan


Interchurch marriages have long been recognised by those close to them as sites where ecumenical learning can occur. This lived experience has often contrasted with church traditions who struggled to accommodate them pastorally and theologically, let alone value them as pioneers. In the Catholic Church, a gradual development from accommodation to toleration to recognition can be seen since the Second Vatican Council. While many pastoral and doctrinal problems remain, interchurch couples now benefit from a mature theological reflection, particularly regarding their ecclesiological significance as domestic churches. This article explores two recent developments as potential resources for receiving the ecumenical learning of interchurch families within a wider church reflection on communion, mission, and ecclesial participation in the twenty-first century. First, in ecumenical methodology, an emerging field of “Receptive Ecumenism” has generated theological and practical literature, including proposals that interchurch families often practice a form of Receptive Ecumenism. We examine some key principles of this approach and consider how they apply to pastoral realities for interchurch families. Themes of woundedness, love, and hospitality emerge as significant intersections of theory and practice. Second, we take note of the synodal pathway being pursued by the Catholic Church, arguing that this movement opens up both pastoral and theological opportunities for fruitful recognition of interchurch marriages on a more substantively theological basis than previous papal observations. The importance of attending to realities regarding such ecumenical marriages as a sites of possible of theological disclosure about the church, especially when understood as synodal in the modern Catholic sense, lies at the heart of the article.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 13, 2024
Online Publication Date Jun 23, 2024
Publication Date Jun 23, 2024
Deposit Date Jun 24, 2024
Publicly Available Date Jun 24, 2024
Journal Marriage, Families & Spirituality
Publisher Peeters Publishers
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 30
Issue 1
Pages 6-20
Public URL
Publisher URL


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