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Question 4.

Kalimera Pater. I would like to know where the Church stands on an English Atheist marrying a Greek Orthodox woman in the Greek orthodox Church, wait for it, the Groom is willing to get baptised in the Orthodox church but is insisting his best friend be his best man who is also English but who is also willing to get baptised in our church. ?????

Question by another member 

I'm going to add to your questions. Why do the best men and lady have to be Greek Orthodox? What if you don't want anyone Greek Orthodox to be your best man/lady?


Answer to Question 4.


The Church has many canons (rules) dealing with how we should receive people from other beliefs. Some of these rules call for “κατ’ ακρίβεια” translated as rigorism, strictness or accuracy to the letter with no accommodation for any deviation from the law. With mixed marriages the Church has found it necessary to use what in Greek we call “Economia”. This is an idiom of the Greek Church and there is no equivalent translation in English. What it means is that the Church economises on the strictness of the Canons, a dispensation, a concession or special consideration used for the good of someone’s salvation. If we use the “κατ’ ακρίβεια” then everyone who is not Orthodox cannot be married in the Orthodox Church because we do not recognize the Baptism they received in their own Church. With the “Economia” rule we turn a blind eye and accept the baptism of the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church and some other churches that confess the Holy Trinity making it possible for them to be married to an Orthodox in our Church.  But your question is not about marrying someone from another church, but an Atheist. The true question here is whether the person actually wants to be baptized or is this a requirement of the mother in law that he must become Orthodox if he wants to marry her daughter. No one should change the beliefs just because of marriage. The only acceptable reason should be because of conviction, in other words, he/she has, through enlightenment, come to the belief that the Orthodox Church is the One True Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ. Nevertheless, Baptism for the sake of marriage does happen and according to where you are it can be a simple matter of making an appointment with the local priest or it could take months of lessons before being accepted into the Church.  In Cyprus, the Church embraces all applicants for Baptism, but requires that all adult Baptisms must be preceded by pre-baptismal instructions (catechism), whereby the candidate is made fully aware that he freely accepts, understands and embraces the teachings of the One True, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and renounces all other faiths. Not everyone needs months or years of catechism lessons, time depends on where they are coming from and how serious they are of joining the Orthodox Church. If for example the person is a Roman Catholic and has a good knowledge of the Bible and of Christian beliefs, they could have just a few lessons on the dogmatic differences between the two churches.  I have had such candidates where I found it was only necessary to give them reading material and just three or four lessons. On the other hand I have had candidates who even after many months of meetings still had no idea of what they were being taught. The priest is the only person who will decide when the candidate is ready to be baptized.  Once he is baptized he is Orthodox and has every right to be married in the Church. As for his best man, if he is also willing to become Orthodox then I cannot see what the problem is?  When it comes to Best men we have something of a hypocritical situation. In many cases we marry someone who is Anglican but insist that the best man must be Orthodox. Also in recent years we turn a blind eye if the maid of honour is non-Orthodox but again the best man must be Orthodox. The best man and the maid of honour do not sign anything and during the service the only thing they do is exchange the rings on the couple’s fingers. They are representatives of the people of God and stand as witnesses to the promise of love and devotion between the new couple. Their exchanging of the rings is symbolic of their promise to stand by the couple and always support them in their new life.  The only reason why the best man has to be Orthodox is that it was and still is the custom for the best man to baptize the first child and the Godparent cannot be anything but Orthodox. When we marry non Orthodox to an Orthodox we insist that the non Orthodox signs a declaration saying that the children of that marriage will be baptized Orthodox. We could simple do the same with a non Orthodox best man and have the couple sign a declaration that the best man will not be considered as a godparent for any of their children. But this is only my personal view and only the Church Synod can make such a ruling.