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American Association
of InterChurch Families

United States of America

Two things, no three, are true. The United States is very big, the electronic age is here and the influence of AAIF continues to grow.

It is thanks to the wonders of e-mail and the telephone that enable us to keep contact with each other. We even have our Board meetings through conference calling.

So many people are working so hard throughout the country; we have reports from a few and spotlighting these activities will serve to highlight the greater picture.

Laura and Franz Green come from Virginia Beach, Virginia. They worship at the Church of the Holy Apostles, which is unique in that it is jointly Roman Catholic and Episcopalian. The Sunday service is joint right up until the consecration at which time the priests go to different ends of the church. Everything is done together with the exception of the Holy Eucharist, which is a painful reminder that there is much work still to be done to heal the divisions in the various traditions of the Christian Church. As part of their parish outreach they have ecumenical forums where ministers of many other traditions attend and speak about their own faith tradition. Once the minister has outlined something about their Church there is an opportunity for discussion where the differences and more importantly the similarities are aired. These forums have helped to build trust and good rapport among the participants and have fostered a sense of greater understanding and fellowship between the traditions. Needless to say AAIF invariably becomes part of the equation. Flyers promoting AAIF have been given to the clergy involved and sent to others in the State of Virginia.

In addition the Greens attend the Annual State and Regional LARC (Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic) Conferences and use this as a further opportunity to dispense flyers and promote the Association. Furthermore the local community TV station aired a program produced by the Diocese of Richmond. Franz and Laura with friends of theirs spoke about ecumenism and InterChurch families. The Greens say how fortunate they are in having the strong support of their parish and make special mention of Bonnie Inman who was very much involved with the International Conference held in Virginia Beach in 1996.

There is another strong Chapter in Omaha, Nebraska. The marriage preparation program required by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese uses many of our InterChurch couples. The program had been concentrated within the city, but is now spreading to many of the country areas.

"Greetings from Chicago, Illinois!!" So say Rita George, the Assistant Ecumenical Officer for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, and Brian Benes and Christine Hewson, a newly engaged InterChurch couple. Between them they are forming a new Chapter in that city. The Office for Ecumenical & Interreligious Affairs are working on a one-day "ecumenical sensitivity" seminar for priests. They found that in a recent survey of many pastors the ministry to InterChurch couples was one of their most pressing concerns. Last year they worked with InterChurch couples who planned an annual InterChurch discovery weekend.

Father Ernest Falardeau, SSS from Albuquerque, New Mexico reports that they have had three meetings of InterChurch couples (and their children) in the last two months, the last one taking place just last weekend. Dick and Nancy House are planning on attending the International Conference in Edmonton. They are a great couple and will be very helpful to establishing a "cell", or Chapter, in the Albuquerque area.

Another member of the group has written a letter on behalf of the Family Life Office encouraging the Engaged Encounter movement to change their policy of excluding InterChurch (and Interfaith) couples from being leaders in the movement. The head of the Family Life Office and her husband (Heddy and Dick Long) and Father Ernie gave suggestions regarding the content.

Father recently sent an article to the Editor of "Ecumenical Trends" entitled Eucharistic Sharing: Recent Developments. Father Ernie is a Spiritual Adviser for AAIF and his latest book "That All May Be One" [Paulist Press] contains an excellent chapter on Marriage and Christian Unitywhich makes particular reference to InterChurch couples.

Kay & Denny Flowers from Seville, Ohio continue to give talks at Cana II seminars for the Cleveland Roman Catholic Diocese. At these seminars they take the opportunity to hand out copies of "The ARK". They also have written a book entitled, "Catholic Annulment: Spiritual Healing". It is written from an ecumenical point of view, for all Christians, and is helpful for InterChurch families.

Barbara and Michael Slater are the National Co-Chair of AAIF and because of their work on the national stage the activities in California have been mainly concentrated in the south, although they maintain contact with the Episcopal parish in Sutter Creek which is an old gold mining town in the northern part of the State. Barb and Michael are actively supported by both their parishes in Huntington Beach [St. Bonaventure’s and St Wilfrid of York]. They also enjoy the support of Ecumenical Officers from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the Diocese of Orange [both Roman] and the Diocese of Los Angeles [Episcopal] which covers the geographical area (and then some) of the other two put together. This has enabled them through the Family Life Office, where they also have good friends, to have a presence at the annual Los Angeles Religious Education Conference. Displays are also mounted at the Episcopal Diocese Annual Conference and the Annual Ministry Fair. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Orange, Most Revd Tod Brown, interviewed Michael and Barb and gave his blessing to their work and to AAIF. Incidentally Bishop Brown is the Chairman of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops Ecumenical Committee. So AAIF has yet another friend in a high place.

With the help of Father Ernie, and the approval of Bishop Tod, Barb and Michael have produced three Sacrament Leaflets, which are modelled on the leaflets published by AIF England some years ago. These leaflets, covering Marriage, Eucharist and Baptism, have been warmly received and they are now going into their second printing. There are plans to produce further leaflets in the series in the near future.

Michael is studying for the Ordained Ministry in the Episcopal Church. He is now a Postulant and with the blessing of his Bishop has taken the pastoral care of InterChurch families as his chosen ministry. Michael and Barb have demonstrated to the various authorities in both churches that if a couple from two traditions present themselves to the Pastor, then being loving and welcoming is not enough. The issues involved should be faced immediately if future problems are to be avoided. In this way the couple can be seen for what they are – a rich blessing for the Church, rather than a problem to be solved.

Barb and Michael were also approached by a Redemptorist priest from San Antonio, Texas. Father Rob Ruhnke, who writes marriage preparation programs for national use, asked for their input for his latest book. They met last fall and Father Rob’s second book, Marriage Preparation for Christians (other than Roman Catholic Christians) was published early in 2001. He has asked the Slaters to work on an Addendum, which could be used with both the "Roman Catholic" version and "Christian" version of his marriage preparation programs that would deal with issues, questions and answers for couples embarking on an InterChurch marriage.

The work on the National front continues unabated. After a great deal of work by Bonnie and Tom Mack from Cincinnati, Ohio with assistance from Peter Glauber of Louisville, Kentucky, a Constitution and By-Laws were prepared. After some minor changes they were adopted at the General Meeting held two years ago in Omaha, Nebraska. The first elections were then held.

As mentioned above thanks to modern technology many enquiries are received via e-mail. This is an excellent medium because, once the inquirer is satisfied that they have got to a safe place, they can voice all sorts of ideas in the sure knowledge that they can remain anonymous if they so wish. Most do not and a great number of people have been helped in this way. Very often the inquirers have come to AAIF by way of National Council of Catholic Bishops (NCCB), or after "surfing the web" and finding the AIF web page. The Web Master, Ray Temmerman, needs some sort of award for this excellent "production". This is a nice link to mention that AAIF now has its own embryo web page thanks to Denny Flowers. There are an increasing number of inquiries on Interfaith questions, which are often referred on through the links that have been made over the years.

To continue the links – Kay Flowers is the Editor of "The Ark". This is the quarterly journal of the Association. It aims to keep subscribers informed about the work of the Association in different parts of the States and also to produce articles on ecumenism generally.

The Association has had close links with the National Association of Diocesan Ecumenical Officers [NADEO; ecumenical officers for the Roman Catholic church] for many years through the AAIF’s founder, Father George Kilcourse. In recent times Barb and Michael met and made friends with the then NADEO President, Father Vince Hayer and subsequently the new President, Garland Pohl. This has resulted in displays being mounted at the annual National Workshop on Christian Unity [NWCU] of which NADEO is a part. This conference is for Ecumenical Officers from all traditions and an excellent opportunity to talk about InterChurch families and hand out literature. The Slaters have also formed bonds with EDEO (Episcopal Diocesan Ecumenical Officers) and LERN (Lutheran Ecumenical Officers). The conference was held in Louisville, Kentucky in 2000 and NADEO had a workshop on InterChurch relationships. Such was the impact that in 2001 NWCU itself ran three workshops on InterChurch marriages. The Conference was held in San Diego, California and Barb and Michael were co-presenters with another InterChurch couple for two of the workshops, but ran the third by themselves. They have received a lot of favorable feed back from the workshops and hope that this has set a trend for the future.

Barb & Michael Slater
National Co-Chair, AAIF
June 30, 2001