During my formative childhood years, as a conservative Protestant evangelical, I was taught that a Catholic-Protestant marriage was actually an “interfaith” wedding and thus it should never happen. I was taught that both sides would compromise their faith in such an arrangement and the results would almost never be good. On our side, we simply did not see Catholics as Christians so this was an “unequal yoke” in our circles. (Pre-Vatican II many Catholics did not see us as Christians either! We were outside the church, thus outside salvation.)

My mother once dated a Catholic boy (she was a Baptist) for a short time. She regularly told her sons why she could never marry him, thus they broke up in due time. She sometimes reminded me, “You could have had a Catholic father.” This was meant to make me thankful that I had been spared the terrible fate of having a Catholic father since this would have confused and harmed me spiritually. (I wasn’t sure what to make of my Episcopal neighbor but I was assured he was at least a Protestant!)

Well, I am very thankful I had the father I did. He was a good and godly man. And marriages, at least in those days, between Catholics and Protestants were often marriages with profound difficulties. These marriages often resulted in a compromised family faith at best, or even no faith at all. And my father’s deep love for Christ, and simple humble devotion, gained from his grandmother’s rather stern Methodist life and faith, were all very important to my life. I am also grateful that I had a pious Baptist mother as well, a mother who taught me the Bible powerfully. Through these two parents God showed me the love of Christ as a small child and I came to understand the importance of repentance and faith at a very early stage of life. My foundation in piety was rich and real.

But what about today? Should Catholics and Protestants ever marry? Does such a wedding constitute an “interfaith” marriage, as we called it in my childhood? My friend Andrew Sandlin recently officiated such a wedding and wrote a great blog about it this week. His nuanced and helpful answer is one that I urge you to read at http://www/andrewsandlin.net/?p=199 

I believe Andrew has stated this question correctly and answered it with real pastoral care. In some ways, your response to Andrew’s comments will tell you just how open you really are to confessing Christian faith in the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.” One could say that this question poses the ultimate sectarian test. Read it and see how you respond. Pass or fail?

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  1. Bob Myers May 2, 2006 at 9:14 am

    As a pastor, I have seen so much sorrow from such “mixed” unions that I could never endorse or encourage them.
    I always counsel Christians to come under the same local church before marrying, just as I encourage them to leave their parents and cleave to one another. To share the same marriage bed but be unable to share the same local church is a major inconsistency that should be worked through before marriage. And yes, I have said the same to much smaller differences, such as the differences between Lutherans and Presbyterians or Baptists and Charismatics.
    Whatever our estimate of an individual Roman Catholic’s relationship with the Lord may be, and I certainly understand that many are wonderful Christian believers, I read Sandlin’s article and was disappointed that there were not more conditions and qualifications on such unions.
    The Roman Catholic priests I have known require pledgees from the Protestant that they will raise their children in Roman Catholicism. While I could never do this or advocate a Protestant doing this, I commend these priests for a policy that at leasts shows some concern for the future generations.
    I reject the notion that I am somehow failing to confess Christ in ONE HOLY APOSTOLIC church by opposing these kinds of marriages. Grace can live where two redeemed sinners cannot.
    Sorry to have to disagree. I want the unity of all believers to be manifested, but this is not an idea worth promoting.

  2. shelia davis May 15, 2006 at 8:24 pm

    I am trying to find and purchase the book ‘the compromise church. I would greatly appreciate your help. thanks!

  3. Wedding Songs Father February 16, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    Wedding Songs Father

    The lasting image of this album will be know Im you

  4. Benjamin Saxton December 30, 2008 at 9:24 am

    I see that this blog post is from awhile ago, but I thought I would add my thoughts any way.
    I couldn’t disagree with Bob’s comments above more actually.
    Its fascinating how we as a culture decided that its our different perspectives about theological nuances that keep the “unity of believers” from being manifested, when in all reality, its closed-minded weakly-thought-out perspectives like this one that drive a spike between believers.
    The world suffers greater divides from the “to be united, we must all believe identically” perspectives then it does from debating over Mary or Purgatory.
    Now, understand that I say this as a Protestant Youth Pastor who married a Catholic Director of Music and Liturgy.
    We do not believe the same.
    We attend different churches (the one’s that employ us).
    We both deeply believe in Jesus as Lord, in his forgiveness and grace, and in his ultimate teaching to Love God and neighbor.
    We are more “equally yoked” then most of the married couples we come across.
    It works. I’m living it. 🙂
    I hope that Bob can see that his perspective, in reality, INCREASES the separation between believers, while my family and perspective CELEBRATES the “unity of believers” Everyday…
    In our “interfaith” marriage.
    Thanks. 🙂

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