The relationship between Protestants and Catholics can range from being ecumenically united to serve as Christ did, to the punchline of a good joke, to full-on violence between the two. Within that spectrum, many interfaith couples have come together and broken apart because of their theological differences. So how did we, as a mixed-race, interfaith, blended family, learn to lovingly edify each other in our walks with Christ?
It was two years after my (arguably) worst relationship when I began to open my heart again and pray for a husband. I had taken time to heal and resumed my intimate walk with the Lord. I felt called and ready to invite God into my desire for a holy man to share my life with. My main criteria for a partner were that he would know and love God, he had to be active in his faith, and that faith had to be his own.
I had no desire to be “unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18), but my heart was open to someone from another Christian denomination.
Two weeks after I opened my heart to pursuit, in walked Branden, who was (and still is) a Lutheran pastor. He blew the other suitors out of the water with his ability to listen actively, his drive to serve God in concrete applications, and his strikingly handsome features (a gift of his Native American heritage).
Branden was baptized as a Lutheran at age 10, very active at Stony Lake Lutheran Summer Camp for over a decade, and became a pastor in 2018. Alternately, I am a cradle Catholic, served with NET Ministries, and spent most of my adult life working for Catholic Churches and with Catholic families.
While our faith backgrounds are uniquely different, they hold enough in common that we could grow together and respect one another. In the early days of our relationship, I asked him what he thought of Mary and the Eucharist, knowing that this would be a make-or-break moment.
He responded with shockingly similar views on the Eucharist, and, regarding Mary, said, “She carried Jesus into the world while facing a lot of hardship, of course she should be respected.”
Being on the same page on the “big” things brings a lot of peace, but our disagreements are also a blessing. In fact, our theological debates and conversations are one of my greatest joys in our relationship. I love that I married a man who has a formal education in theology as well as a personal relationship with Jesus. And he is still constantly learning. Often our evenings end with us sitting in our own chairs (similar to Carl and Ellie in Pixar’s UP) reading our separate spiritual works. This “parallel play” often leads to one of us saying, “Did you___?” and initiating a great conversation.
Keeping the Peace
While mutual respect and religious conversations are very present in our faith relationship, there are still points of contention as well. However, these points are often deeper in the weeds, not a matter of salvation. Some common ones we visit are, “Why are there seven sacraments?” or “Was Mary a perpetual virgin?” or “Why would Sola Scriptura be valid?”
I feel like I can safely assume these are common questions in a Catholic and Protestant household.
No matter what disagreements we encounter, my husband and I hold fast to the mission that we want to love each other well as we spend our time on earth being the hands and feet of our savior Jesus.
Serving in Unity
Our unified goal of loving and serving Jesus is essential for the health and success of our relationship. It is how we can come together and see that while we have differences, our common ground is broader than the points we don’t see eye to eye on.
We’ve also been able to compromise graciously. We attend both a Catholic Church and the Lutheran church where he serves. We tithe to both, and we support both NET Ministries and Stony Lake Lutheran Summer Camp. We respected each other’s traditions when we were dating, and we prayerfully incorporated both churches into our marriage in significant ways…but more on that to come.