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Are converts who married outside of the Orthodox Church committing adultery?


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#1 Sophia C.

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Posted 21 April 2010 - 04:37 PM

I wondered why the Church has not insisted that all Orthodox Priests and converts married (?) prior to becoming Orthodox are "remarried" in the Church after Chrismation and Baptism (or just Baptism if baptised previously in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.) so as to receive and be part of the Sacrament of Marriage. I have heard it done but not applied in all circumstances (less rather than more). As a convert myself I married and divorced prior to becoming Orthodox. I now wonder - am I a divorced woman in the eyes of the Church or is it as if I never married at all?! And what about others that never married in the Church...are they living in sin?

With love in Christ, our God
Sophia

#2 Cyprian (Humphrey)

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Posted 21 April 2010 - 05:46 PM

That really sounds more like a pastoral issue that has a whole lot of things to consider, basically making every case different. I doubt there's a "one-size-fits-all" answer.

What one's Spiritual Father (and Bishop, if need be) decide in their case, is what they decide in that case. Different cases might require different answers.

That's just my two kopecks. Feel free to ignore it. :)

#3 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 21 April 2010 - 06:19 PM

Christ told the woman being stoned for adultery that her sins were forgiven. Forgiven means gone, wiped out, as if they never were. When we become Orthodox, we die to the "old" man and to the old Law even as the Apostle Paul explains in Romans 7:3-4.

If an Orthodox Christian married outside the Church, that puts them outside the Church and the situation must be rectified before they can be considered a member of the Church once again, as Fr. Cyprian says, this is a case-by-case thing. Anyone outside the Church cannot benefit from the Church, the spiritual hospital through which comes healing from the sickness of sin, until they are admitted into the hospital through baptism and the sacraments. We are all "living in sin", that is in sickness, in as much as we do not take advantage of this healing. The sacrament of marriage is but one of the many ways the Holy Spirit works to heal us of the sickness of sin.

#4 Sophia C.

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Posted 21 April 2010 - 06:41 PM

Herman, thanks for your reply, although I must have expressed the original question in a confusing way as you have misunderstood me. I was not referring to marrying whilst Orthodox. Instead I was referring to those who married before becoming Orthodox.

Sophia

#5 Sophia C.

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Posted 21 April 2010 - 06:57 PM

To clarify:
1. Non-Orthodox man marries non-Orthodox woman in a civil marriage
2. Ten years later both become Orthodox
3. Never marry in the Church (Sacrament of Marriage)

Question - are they married in the eyes of the Church?

Edited by Sophia C., 21 April 2010 - 06:59 PM.
posted without completing


#6 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 21 April 2010 - 07:15 PM

Some bishops maintain that baptism "corrects" all and a baptized couple is also a blessed couple, while other bishops allow a marriage blessing (shortened marriage service) in conjunction with or in close proximity to, the baptism. That is their call, that is why they get to wear the funny hats.

In short, if the bishop says they are married, they are married.

#7 Eric Peterson

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Posted 21 April 2010 - 08:07 PM

If a couple that has been married before converting wants to settle the matter, let them have their marriage blessed in the Church.

#8 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 21 April 2010 - 08:17 PM

To clarify:
1. Non-Orthodox man marries non-Orthodox woman in a civil marriage
2. Ten years later both become Orthodox
3. Never marry in the Church (Sacrament of Marriage)

Question - are they married in the eyes of the Church?


Strictly speaking (as I was taught), no, they are not married - how can they be? A little better would be the case of a couple who were married in, say, the Anglican church. But why not receive the blessing the Church offers? That's what my first wife and I did and what we were advised to do: I converted, she converted, and we were then married in the Orthodox Church. Such a blessing and joy! - why not go for it?

#9 Father David Moser

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Posted 21 April 2010 - 08:48 PM

To clarify:
1. Non-Orthodox man marries non-Orthodox woman in a civil marriage
2. Ten years later both become Orthodox
3. Never marry in the Church (Sacrament of Marriage)

Question - are they married in the eyes of the Church?


Yes ... and No. They are received as married and may be allowed to continue in that state. Most priests I know will strongly encourage such a couple to have the marriage crowned at the baptism (or in some cases not even ask, but just pile the whole thing together in one single service). OTOH, I know that prior to my ordination to the diaconate, the bishop specifically asked my priest whether or not we had received the sacrament of marriage and indicated that if the answer was no, it would have be done prior to the ordination. From that I would say that they are not considered to be married. So, it's hard to say. As a pastor, I strongly strongly encourage married couples converting together to be married in the Church and have also had the opportunity to marry other convert couples who were received in a different parish but who are now part of my parish and who have asked me to "bless" their marriage (say on a 25th anniversary or some other special occasion).

Fr David Moser

#10 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 21 April 2010 - 08:54 PM

Dear Fr David and all,

In this thread you make mention of 'blessing' the marriage. Could you explain what this involves? Thanks.

-Fr Raphael

#11 Father David Moser

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Posted 21 April 2010 - 09:01 PM

When people have asked me to "bless" their marriage, I think they don't generally know what they are asking for - just some kind of special ceremony to mark their anniversary or something. If there has not been a previous Orthodox marriage (as described above) but were simply coasting along on their marriage prior to baptism, then I will suggest to them that rather than bless the marriage, let us instead give them an Orthodox marriage. In most cases couples will see this is what they wanted all along and so I will perform the crowning (having assumed that the exchange of promises/vows and exchange of rings in a heterodox or civil ceremony mimic the betrothal quite sufficiently). For those who are already married in the Church, I have done a festive molieben using their wedding icons and drawing an appropriate prayer from the wedding service but without crowns or any thing else like that.

Fr David Moser

#12 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 21 April 2010 - 09:05 PM

Thanks- now I see.

#13 Panayota K.

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Posted 21 April 2010 - 09:47 PM

In short, if the bishop says they are married, they are married.


I respectfully disagree. A sacrament is a sacrament regardless of what a bishop says. What I mean is that as baptism has got the power to correct all, marriage service has got the power to bless the union of two people. Otherwise what's the meaning of being born again (=being baptised) if you continue your past life?

#14 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 22 April 2010 - 12:09 AM

I respectfully disagree. A sacrament is a sacrament regardless of what a bishop says. What I mean is that as baptism has got the power to correct all, marriage service has got the power to bless the union of two people. Otherwise what's the meaning of being born again (=being baptised) if you continue your past life?


Without the bishop, there are no sacraments. Beyond that i don't quite understand what you are saying.

#15 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 22 April 2010 - 12:38 PM

I must say I rather agree with Panayota K; I don't see how a couple can be said to be married in the Orthodox Church when they convert. Does it depend on their being baptised and not just chrismated? Does it depend on their having been married in a certain kind of church or can chrismation/baptism 'correct' a civil marriage? I'm not persuaded by the assertion that chrismation corrects everything. Bishops are not infallible (especially western ones), and one is not obliged to take the word of one's own bishop as binding on such a matter. But why leave the matter in doubt - why not get the blessing of an Orthodox marriage?

#16 Grace Singh

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Posted 22 April 2010 - 04:20 PM

I respectfully disagree. A sacrament is a sacrament regardless of what a bishop says. What I mean is that as baptism has got the power to correct all, marriage service has got the power to bless the union of two people. Otherwise what's the meaning of being born again (=being baptised) if you continue your past life?


on a related note, if a woman gets married, divorces her husband, later converts to Orthodoxy and remarries after divorce (to an Orthodox man) is she comitting adultery against her first husband, in the eyes of the Church?

Christ tells us that if a woman or man marries after divorce, period, that they are comitting adultery and in sin. either be reconciled to your first spouse, in Christ, or remain single. is this the understanding of the Othodox Church, too?

#17 Subdeacon Joseph Gingrich

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Posted 22 April 2010 - 05:11 PM

I wondered why the Church has not insisted that all Orthodox Priests and converts married (?) prior to becoming Orthodox are "remarried" in the Church after Chrismation and Baptism (or just Baptism if baptised previously in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.) so as to receive and be part of the Sacrament of Marriage. I have heard it done but not applied in all circumstances (less rather than more). As a convert myself I married and divorced prior to becoming Orthodox. I now wonder - am I a divorced woman in the eyes of the Church or is it as if I never married at all?! And what about others that never married in the Church...are they living in sin?


With love in Christ, our God

No mystery exists outside the Church. That being said the answer is not simple. When a married couple comes into the Church their Baptism or Chrismation with Eucharist justifies them as a couple because the two are one in Christ now. However, a priest or bishop could marry them and this is normally done on a case by case basis. If the gesture to marry the couple was seen by them as an offense because it possibly suggests adultery I was told in seminary to drop the issue.

Edited by Herman Blaydoe, 22 September 2010 - 05:18 PM.
fixed formatting


#18 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 22 April 2010 - 05:51 PM

'Adultery' is the wrong word in this context - 'fornication' is the correct term. I fail to see how a convert couple who were married in a civil ceremony only can be regarded as married. How on earth - or in heaven - can an Orthodox sacrament fulfill a secular contract? I detect too much wishy-washy westernism in this area. Whyever not partake of the Orthodox sacrament of matrimony? I did, and was most glad that I did!

#19 Eric Peterson

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Posted 22 April 2010 - 08:51 PM

You are not going to find absolute uniformity of practice in Orthodoxy today or historically on this issue. We should not look at the sacrament of marriage anachronistically. As a service, like Confession, it was a rather late arrival, as I have heard. I am not comfortable at all saying that those who are not married in the Orthodox Church are living in sin. For goodness sake, THAT would be Westernization, attaching a juridical understanding to a mystery. Fortunately, if people feel the need to do so, marriage is much easier to do than a retroactive baptism.

To clarify--a couple coming into the Orthodox Church, even years later, can have their marriage blessed, while it is much more difficult to receive Orthodox baptism if such was denied to the convert. Still, I think the same economia covers both in terms of explanation, although I would really like a patrisitic witness for "filling up the empty form," whether of baptism, chrismation, or marriage.

#20 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 22 April 2010 - 09:10 PM

For goodness sake, THAT would be Westernization, attaching a juridical understanding to a mystery.


No, I am not attaching a juridical understanding to a mystery. You partake in a sacrament of the Church or you don't. To say that reception into the Orthodox Church can translate a civil marriage into a state of Orthodox matrimony is nonsense. That is westernisation stretching 'economia' too far. Economia is no substitute for doing the real thing when there is no reason not to do the real thing.




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