Länderupdate 2009

Interchurch Families International Network (IFIN)

2009 Report (through Dec. 31, 2009)

To the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU)


  • At a recent November 2009 meeting of Catholic Diocesan Ecumenical Commissions from throughout Australia in Brisbane, the visit of Msgr Juan Usma Gomez from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) was significant His paper was entitled Pentecostal and Evangelical Dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church; the current situation and hopes for the future. He has been a member of this Dialogue since 1995. Speaking in tongues and charismatic Catholics, through whom this Dialogue became possible in the first place, were discussed, at length, as well as relations with the Assemblies of God and the 4 Square Gospel Churches. The latest Vatican document, on the 5h Dialogue, can be found at Web site http://www.prounione.urbe.it/dia-int/pe-re/doc/e-pe-re-5-contents.html.
  • Msgr Gomez also suggested a book on this topic: On Becoming a Christian- Insights from Scripture and the Patristic Fathers. Sorry – details not provided. 
  • How privileged I was to represent Maitland-Newcastle at this inspirational event, renewing many old acquaintances and making fresh ones.
  • Along with other dialogues mentioned below, such advances the interests of many interchurch families.
  • Since there had not been an opportunity for such a gathering, which used to be bi-annual since 2003 when we had a visit form Cardinal Kasper, I seized the opportunity to arrange a display of Interchurch Family materials, which included copies of our Benedictine icon, a display of general material advertising the scope of our work, copies of material re baptism and marriage, copies of the Rome Report form 2001, information about the Sacramental Guidelines for the Dioceses of Brisbane, Broken Bay, Maitland-Newcastle and Rockhampton. All the information was read and taken by conference end. Many interchurch issues arose during our corridor time and beyond. The upcoming INTAMS Conference in Belgium was spoken about in proceedings- great publicity indeed.
  • Conference input was received  on the significant International Dialogues taking place at the highest levels within the Vatican with :
    The Anglican Church (ARCIC and IARCCUM)
    The World Methodist Church
    The World Lutheran Federation
    Pentecostal and Evangelical Churches
    The Orthodox Churches
    Interfaith Dialogues with Muslims, Buddhist, Hindus and others
  •  Conference also covered  similar Dialogues which take place in Australia under the auspices of the Australian Catholic Bishops 
  • The 10th Anniversary of the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between the President of the Lutheran World Federation and Cardinal Cassidy of the PCPCU in Augsburg, 31st October 1999, was celebrated on Saturday evening, the exact anniversary date. This document has profoundly affected relations in Australia where the Dialogue continues and is led by Revd Dr Gerard Kelly. 
  • Archbishop Darwish, head of the Australian Melkite Church, provided excellent information on Orthodox and Eastern Christian Churches, including the 21 who are in communion with Rome. The excellent paper may be viewed on the Web site below. 
  • There were Reports from Australians involved in International Dialogue with Anglican (IARCCUM and ARCIC), and the International Methodist Dialogue, as well as our Australian National Dialogues with the Anglican (AustARC), Lutheran and Uniting Churches. The Lutheran/Catholic Dialogue was reported by Revd Dr Gerard Kelly from CIS. 
  • The whole period was en Ecumenical Feast and a joy for interchurch family  relationships.     

Submitted by Bev Hincks (Conference Representative)

Two specific issues have dominated the work of the interchurch families’ listserv.  The first was the US Bishops' proposed statement on marriage.  A number of interchurch families with a deep interest in the pastoral nature of the situation gathered electronically to write a submission to the USCCB.  After a number of drafts which contained suggestions for modifications to the proposed document, it was decided to restrict the submission to offering to collaborate with the Bishops to develop ways in which interchurch families could contribute their gifts of living unity to the churches of which they are members.
The second was to begin, via the listserv, to develop ways of approaching priests and bishops to discuss opportunities, possibilities and practices for eucharistic sharing.  Such an approach is fraught with challenges.  Where clergy are more inclined to have canon law obeyed than to have it generously applied, the consequences can be seriously damaging to spouses and families, whereas the opposite can lead to a joyous sense of welcome and inclusiveness which supports, encourage and nourishes spouses and their families, regardless of their Christian tradition.  Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing, until it is too late to change course, which approach will be taken.  There will undoubtedly be significant discussion on the listserv before any actual approaches are made.
Submitted by Ray Temmerman, Winnipeg, Canada
*(Editor’s note:  Another significant undertaking is Ray Temmerman’s thesis work on Interchurch Families.  He is progressing well on this research and writing and we all look forward to reading his completed thesis.  Ray will share one dimension of his work at the presentation he will give at the Leuven Conference in March 2010.)

The network of the Association Française des Foyers Mixtes Interconfessionnels Chrétiens (AFFMIC) is growing slowly, and becoming more well-known as a partner in the French ecumenical movement. 
Since the beginning of 2009 members of the Committee have met the new ecumenical delegate of the French Protestant Federation, Pastor E. Vion.  In September members were delighted to hear of the appointment of Fr F. Lemaître, his Catholic counterpart, the ecumenical delegate for the RC Bishops’ Conference, with whom we have worked for a long time since he was based at the Centre St Irénée in Lyon.
Four editions of our AFFMIC newsletter were sent to members over the past year.
Following our pattern of holding an annual gathering to allow interchurch families and couples to meet each other, the Annual General Meeting of the Association was held in the context of a regional meeting in the southwest of France in Beaumont les Valence, on the theme: ‘Where are we coming from? What are we living? What are we hoping for?’
To make the network better known, the Association has taken part in two significant encounters:

  • Two couples responded to an invitation to take part in the celebrations to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the CEC/KEK (the ecumenical council representing mainstream Protestant churches in Europe).
  • An AFFMIC exhibition stand was organized at ‘Protestants en Fête’ (National Protestant Assembly) in October 2009, which attracted more than 10,000 participants.

Both these meetings gave opportunities for making new contacts.
AFFMIC committee members are spending time updating the Association’s website  www.affmic.org, two pages of which are currently in action. 

We are contributing to giving more publicity to the Charta Oecumenica, which is not widely known in parishes, Catholic or Protestant.
We will be contributing to the debate on the Domestic Church which is the subject of a conference in Leuven in March 2010 and will be an occasion for AFFMIC members to meet international partners.
Submitted by Julien and Brigette Vielle
Report from Lyon
The year 2009 has been a turning point for interchurch families in Lyon.  The Centre St Irénée, which was, under its director Fr René Beaupère the origin of pastoral care for interchurch families in France from the 60s, and which has been the hub of organization and initiatives on behalf of interchurch families since then, has undergone considerable reorganization.

To maintain and benefit from the substantial experience of the Centre St Irénée inherited by interchurch families in the Lyon area, a new association was founded at the end of 2009: L'Association Lyonnaise des Foyers Interconfessionnels Chrétiens.  In these early days, seeking to establish itself in the very lively ecumenical scene in Lyon, this association is working closely with the national association AFFMIC, and will encourage other similar groups or associations in the wider Lyon area and south-east France.
Now working separately from the Centre St-Irénée, the new organization aims to give a structure to:

  • ecumenical religious instruction to the children of interchurch families, carried out by a small very enthusiastic group, which is setting up links with the French Reformed parish of Oullins, near Lyon.  This parish has been carrying out such ecumenical instruction for 40 years.
  • the ongoing activity of four interchurch family groups, who are supported by a priest and a pastor, and who regularly all year round hold meetings to reflect on the Bible and theological questions. 
  • the organization of ecumenical celebrations and acts of worship in Catholic and Protestant parishes in Lyon. 

Many interchurch families in Lyon are very active in parish councils and local ecumenical groups.  They take part in the very many ecumenical events and celebrations in Lyon, such as the 50th anniversary meeting of the CEC in July 2009 and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2010.
In spite of the relative reduction in numbers of interchurch families active in the work locally, several young couples have arrived to increase the membership.  Interchurch families in Lyon are aware that the future of the movement is in their hands and are very willing to play their full part in the especially flourishing ecumenical life of the city of Lyon
Submitted by Denise and Jean-Robert Besse
German Ecumenical Network of Interchurch Couples and Families
(Netzwerk Ökumene: Konfessionsverbindende Paare und Familien in Deutschland)
The address list of the Network now consists of approximately 700 addresses of interchurch families and those with an ecumenical interest. Several protestant and catholic bishops are supporting and adopting the Network.

Highlights of activities in 2009:

  • In February we held our annual meeting at the conference centre at Schwarzenshof (Thueringen) on the theme: From problem to model  -  interchurch families as motor in the ecumenical process. Participants: 50 adults and 21 children. Speakers: Chancellor Heinz Gunkel of the Diocese of Erfurt, and Professor Dr. Ulrich Kuehn (protestant) from the University of Leipzig.. Concerning reciprocal eucharistic sharing it was stressed that interchurch families experience a serious spiritual need to receive communion together. Therefore we need a special ruling for interchurch families as “domestic churches” instead of the present ruling on exceptional cases.
  • In May our Network had a stall at the German Protestant Church Convention (Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag) in the town of Bremen, where more than 100 000 participants came together
  • Newsletters were sent to the members of the Network in April and September, and in November an information letter was distributed.

 Planning is underway for:

  • The annual meeting of the Network in 2010 in February 2010 on the theme: We are Catholic, we are Protestant  -  but is Jesus Christ our Centre?
  • The 2nd Ecumenical Church Convention (Zweiter Ökumenischer Kirchentag) to be held in Munich, Bavaria in May of 2010. More than 300 000 participants from different Christian denominations are expected to come to this big event. Members of our Network were invited as speakers. And there will be a special service held by our Network for Interchurch Couples. In addition, we are preparing a stall, providing information on enrichments and challenges, as well as problems of living our differences in unity under one roof.

Members of our Network will participate in March 2010 in the Conference at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium on the theme: The Household of God and Local Households  - Revisiting the Domestic Church.
Submitted by Rosmarie and Rudolf Lauber

AFI-CH, the Swiss association
There has been one important change in our association, our catholic priest and friend left the group to take up a new post. A farewell week-end was organised in his new parish, which gave us the opportunity to participate, at the Saturday evening mass, and the protestant service on Sunday morning, and talk about our association, what it stands for, and what it aims at. Unfortunately no new members! 
We were lucky to find a replacement in Vincent Lafarge, still a seminarian who will be ordained priest in June. He is full of bright ideas, enthusiastic and has a clear ecumenical understanding.
The committee meets about four times a year, we talk about the activities of the regional groups, how we could be better recognised and accepted by our churches and have a general assembly every year in another canton.
Last year we were in the Jura, the latest canton accepted into Switzerland where ecumenism is very strong.
Some of our members will be lucky to join Thomas Knieps-Port le Roi in Leuven in March for the conference on the domestic church—quite a subject.      
But our big concern is the coordination of this year’s French-speaking gathering over a week-end in Vaumarcus in September. The theme is: »Repli », why are so many mixed marriages not interested in sharing their experiences, but rather leave the church. We look forward to meeting lots of people, not only French-speaking members.
Our aim still is and will remain the recognition that we are all Christians, have different roots and our services differ, but it’s the same God to whom we pray. We feel the necessity to belong to our religion where we have strong roots, but recognise the other religion as having many common roots too. But we believe that we all get stronger through the learning from each other, and strive to be recognised by all Christian churches as one body.
Submitted by Gisèle Francey


AIF, Association of Interchurch Families, 27 Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9HH, England
Tel: +44 (0) 20 3384 2947.  info [at] interchurchfamilies [dot] org [dot] uk   www.interchurchfamilies.org.uk

In 2009 interchurch families in Great Britain celebrated the 40th anniversary of the founding of their Association.
This followed the review of membership activities undertaken by the Executive Committee, entitled AIF – the Fifth Decade, which had highlighted that we needed to temper our aspirations and the scope of the Association and proposed a simple priority list of activities for directing volunteer effort:

  • Firstly, the statutory and practical tasks necessary for running the charity and membership association;
  • Secondly, what most members felt were the most important membership activities, organising the Annual Conference and London Meeting;
  • Thirdly, the provision of an information service to interchurch couples and those with pastoral care for such families. 

This is carried out by way of meeting the three strands of our Mission.

Providing A Voice in the Churches is undoubtedly one of our strengths, whether the voice is delivered by members as a body or representing the Association individually by wearing their interchurch hat, eg: 

  • In January Ruth Reardon attended the international conference on Receptive Ecumenism held at Ushaw College in Durham, joined by IFIN member, Ray Temmerman from Canada, and by Mgr Don Bolen who had been the staff member at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.  A meeting with local AIF couples was held in a room helpfully sign-posted by the conference organisers as being for the use of the “Pontifical Council for Interchurch Families”.  If only!!
  • Claire and Michael Malone-Lee attended the Interchurch Families conference in Germany in March, entitled “From the Problem to the Model: the interchurch family as the motor in the ecumenical process”.
  • AIF had its own dedicated booth at the National Christian Resources Exhibition in May which was attended by over 16000 people over the course of 3 days. 
  • In July, Lucy Docherty attended and spoke at the General Synod of the Church of England at York
  • Ray and Fenella Temmerman, whilst in the UK in August, represented Interchurch Families at the Greenbelt Festival attended by over 10,000 Christians from around Britain.  They staffed a display booth and distributed leaflets and the Rome booklet.
  • Our members attended a number of local and regional ecumenical activities, both as officers on Churches Together groups, or bi-lateral liaison groups, and many others – often with the AIF boards on display.
  • We continue to be represented on the national bodies, Churches Together in England Forum, Churches Together in Britain & Ireland’s Bodies in Association and Senior Church Representatives Meetings, national bi-lateral groups, such as the Catholic-Methodist Committee and English Anglican Roman Catholic Committee, the National Board of Catholic Women, the Spirituality Co-ordinating Group, and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Writers Group.

And a Support Network, this has been very much focussed on our priority gatherings:

  • The London Meeting was held at St Andrew’s Church on the South Bank where Dr Anthony Towey, head of Philosophy Theology and History at St Mary’s University College Twickenham brought St Paul alive for us as he talked of Paul’s role as a bridge-builder. 
  • The 42nd interchurch families’ conference at the end of August was a great success; around 90 members and their families attended. We celebrated the 40th birthday of the Association, AIF having been formally founded in 1969. The guest speaker-respondents were Dr David Cornick, General Secretary Churches Together in England (a successor to Martin Reardon), and Fr Daniel O’Leary, formerly Episcopal Vicar for Christian Formation, and now a Parish Priest in the Leeds Diocese. The theme was Faith, Hope and Love and a number of member-couples gave their testimonies to each of these virtues.  We worshipped together in each of the United Reformed, the Roman Catholic and the Anglican traditions and our night prayers were led by our young people.  A collection was taken for the Anglican Centre in Rome.
  • Another key element of our Support Network is the Young Adults Group. Owing to demographic changes a new YAG group is emerging. They played their part at the Annual Conference in leading the Night Prayers and are currently engaged in planning a Social Weekend for 2010. One of our young members from South London was sponsored by AIF, using monies from the Martin Reardon Memorial Fund, to join the visit to Tanzania with her church for a mission fortnight of practical help and bible study.
  • We continue to receive enquiries at the Office and on our website from individuals and couples needing help. 
  • Local Groups around the country have arranged their own meetings during the year, notably the resurgent Midlands Group and the ongoing Herts and Beds Group.

The third leg of our Mission Statement is the provision of an Information Service. This is partly provided for by the activities mentioned above and in addition:

  • Publication of an Annual Review. The 2008 Review was published in June.  It tells people about the Association, what we stand for and what we do. 
  • Maintaining the website which has been extensively revised.
  • Distribution of the General Leaflet and other information leaflets and the booklet, Interchurch Families and Christian Unity, published following the Rome World Gathering in 2003, which continues to be widely used as do the 40th Anniversary T-Shirts and Mugs.

All this is supported by our Organisation and Administration:
We have relocated our office at 27 Tavistock Square, the home of Churches Together in England, of which Martin Reardon was the founding General Secretary. This was forced on us by the downsizing and move of CTBI from Bastille Court to smaller premises in Westminster. Although we are sad to leave CTBI who have been generous landlords since we moved into Inter Church House in the 90s, being with CTE means that we are still accommodated alongside one of the two key players on the ecumenical stage in this country.
The work to update the AIF Database is now largely finished.
The Executive Committee has met both by phone and face-to-face this year and the Advisory Council met in November.
One of our Presidents, Cardinal Cormac, retired as Archbishop of Westminster.  Archbishop Vincent Nicholls has been invited to be a President in his place and has accepted.
The Planning Group is progressing plans for the Annual Conference in 2010 and plans for the 2011 Conference have been initiated.
Plans are well advanced for the Archbishop of Canterbury’s visit and he will address the 6th John Coventry Memorial Lecture on 20 March 2010.

And finally, as we bring our somewhat extended ruby year to a close, let’s give thanks for the vision that Ruth and Martin Reardon and Fr John Coventry were able to bring to fruition 40 years ago; let’s give thanks for the many and substantial improvements that we have seen in the pastoral care of interchurch families; and let’s give thanks to God for allowing us to be his hands here on earth in the building of his church.
Extracted and updated from the Co-Chairs’ report to the 2009 AGM.
Submitted by Keith Lander

United States of America 
The biennial American Association of Interchurch Families (AAIF) Conference will meet July 9-11, 2010 at Holy Wisdom Monastery near Madison, Wisconsin.  Keynote speaker for the July 9-11, 2010 AAIF Conference will be Fr. Kevin Seasoltz, O.S.B., longtime editor of the journal Worship. The planning committee of Libbye Montgomery, Mary Jane Glauber, and Fr. George Kilcourse has put together a program that will involve a spectrum of regional ecumenists in conjunction with Scott Anderson, Director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches. The addition of an academic speaker who specializes in Family Studies promises to address topics of special concern for AAIF.  Holy Wisdom Monastery offers a unique ecumenical community of Benedictine women (both Roman Catholic and Protestant) whose life and witness will teach us about Benedictine hospitality.  The community has made an additional commitment to Ecology and the care of the earth--its 145 acre property.  In November 2009 they dedicated their magnificent new “green” building which replaces the former boarding school; the materials from the old building were recycled through Habitat for Humanity.  The new structure houses the church, a large dining hall, offices, library, chapel and meeting rooms.  The story of the community’s Ecological witness can be viewed on their website: http://www.benedictinewomen.org/    . 
New officers of AAIF are: Co-Chair, Laura & Franz Green; 2nd Vice Co-Chair, Dave & Carol Natella; Secretary, Diane & Lamar Burton; Treasurer, L. Elaine & Clint Hall.
Mary Jane Glauber, immediate past Co-Chair of AAIF, has worked diligently to develop our publication, The Ark, into an electronic pdf file for wider (and less expensive) distribution.  She even secured the ISSN serials registration number which makes The Ark more acceptable for college, seminary, and university libraries.  We are especially thankful to Mary Jane for her steadfast devotion to this project during the busy year in which she and Peter became grandparents of twin grandsons. 
A conference on “Ministering to the Ecumenical Family: Pastoral and Theological Considerations” took place at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee Sept. 27-28, 2009.  This theological retreat with speakers proved a significant regional event for interchurch families. 

The following correspondence was sent to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops by the AAIF Co-Chairs, commenting upon the penultimate draft of the bishops’ Pastoral Letter on Marriage, which was approved at the November 2009 USCCB meeting.   We owe special thanks to Dave and Carol Natella, AAIF Secretary, for coordinating the suggestions, concerns, and drafts of material submitted for this correspondence:  
Greetings to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who are considering the Pastoral Letter Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan.
Thank you for your preparation of this very supportive and helpful Pastoral Letter.
We write on behalf of the American Association of Interchurch Families (AAIF), and organization affiliated with the Interchurch Families International Network (IFIN). An "interchurch family" is a subset of families of "mixed marriages." An interchurch family includes a husband and wife, each of whom is a baptized Christian from a different denomination (tradition), participates in that denomination, and while retaining his or her original church membership, also participates in each other’s church community as much as they are able.[1]  Thus, as the proposed Pastoral Letter quite correctly points out, our experience is quite different from that experienced by families where only one spouse is a baptized and active Christian. 
We are thankful that you are preparing a Pastoral Letter in support of marriage, that great sacrament of unity by which God takes two people and makes them one, a gift not only to each other but to life itself.  We are happy that you pledge yourselves and our Church to the work of marriage-building and to a collaborative approach to that ministry.
We are thankful that the Pastoral Letter seems to recognize that interchurch families such as ours are a great resource to the greater Church.  We are very heartened to read the affirmation of our experience that
"When the two spouses live together in peace, they provide a reminder to all Christians that progress toward the unity for which Christ prayed is possible.   Mixed marriages can, therefore, make an important contribution towards Christian unity" (lines 811-813 in the Draft Pastoral Letter).
This statement is true in a very real sense because we live today in our marriages the unity for which Christ prayed[2], even while that unity remains still in the making.  As Christian spouses, we are united in the Sacraments of both Baptism and Marriage.  And through the sacrament of marriage, we are a true church, namely the "domestic church" (lines 756-760).  
This unity is not made by strength of our wills.  It is made so by the grace of God.  Indeed, the scriptures proclaim[3], our churches believe and teach[4], and we experience and believe, that in marriage we two become one, a unity real and profound.  We are able to share this unity with the greater Church and serve as a resource.
For this reason, we wonder if it is most supportive to the Church for the Pastoral Letter to conclude the section on Mixed Marriages by stating only "that these unions face particular challenges that must be met with realism and reliance on the grace of God" (lines 832-833).  Surely we amount to more than that.  Surely we offer more to the Church than that.
In part, of course, this statement is true.  Our marriages have faced some particular challenges as the result of each spouse remaining faithful to his or her faith tradition.  Every marriage, even one of two Catholics, faces a wide range of challenges, of which religion may be one. But by the grace of God, we continue to overcome these challenges to form true domestic churches across denominational lines.  We are concerned that, without a focus on the fruits and further possibilities that arise from our unity, the Church, including its clergy, religious, and laity, will be hindered in seeing beyond the challenges, and may not stand to benefit from our experience on its own journey to Christian unity.
The Holy Father shares the vision that we hold for ourselves.  In referring to mixed marriages, he does not confine himself to a realism of the past in what he expects from us.  In 2006, Pope Benedict stated that families such as ours "can lead to the formation of a practical laboratory of unity. For this to happen there is need for mutual goodwill, understanding and maturity of faith in both partners, and also in the communities from which they come."[5]
Concrete steps should be taken to strengthen these laboratories, take what has been learned there, and offer it to the wider Church.  We long to collaborate with the bishops, and indeed with all clergy, religious, and laity within the Catholic Church, in making that happen.

Let us reiterate our gratitude and appreciation for this supportive document on marriage, especially in regard to the commitments (line 1109 and following) which the Catholic bishops make to the people of the Church.  Those commitments are most welcome.
Indeed, in our own area of competence, that of interchurch families, we wish to take up the invitation to work collaboratively with you to develop a comprehensive ministry that proclaims and witnesses the fullness of God’s Revelation, accompanies and assists the people, invites and includes the gifts, encourages and utilizes the methods and approaches, and celebrates and incorporates the diversity of races, cultures, ethnicity, heritage, and yes, even Christian traditions that, through our marriages, form part and parcel of the Church.
We look forward to seeing the results of your prayerful deliberations, and await with eager anticipation the opportunity to work collaboratively with you for the greater glory of God.

Finally, our web-master Dave Natella (assisted by his capable wife Carol) will be working to upgrade our AAIF web-site.  We owe the Natellas special thanks.  Dave has moved us forward into this new world of cyberspace.  Now that he is newly retired, we hope that he can find time amid many well-deserved travels and other interests to attend to plans he has for developing AAIF web-site.

Submitted by George Kilcourse

[1] Interchurch Families and Christian Unity: Rome 2003. Presented to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Published by the Association of Interchurch Families, London, UK 2003, p 1

[2] Jn 17:21

[3] Gen 2:24, Mt 19:6, Mk 10:8

[4] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Two, Section Two, Chapter Three, Article 7

[5] Pastoral Visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in Poland, Address of the Holy Father, Ecumenical Encounter, Warsaw, 25 May 2006, available online at: