It is not unusual to see married couples attending different churches for various reasons. Some households even have children attending separate congregations from their parents. What does this separation mean?
Church of the Central African Presbytery (CCAP) Blantyre City Synod clerk the Reverend Baxton Maulidi said when God created man, he saw it was not good for him to be alone and made a suitable companion to help him.
He said when couples differ on churches; it becomes difficult for the two to help each other in their spiritual lives.
“According to Genesis 2: 7, 18, this has a negative impact because of different ideologies. The unity God placed between the two will not be there.
“This confuses the children in deciding who to follow. It is wise for the two to have one church. The companionship should be evident,” said Maulidi.
Pastor Forbes Msiska of Badilika Foundation believes separation comes from misunderstanding the value and meaning of marriage; and some cultural implications on the marriage.
“First of all, people in every culture must understand that marriage is not an invention of the human race. Marriage was designed by God himself,” he said.
Msiska quoted Genesis 2:18 and 21-25 which says: “Then the man said, this is now bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh and she will be called women. For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh. The man and his wife were naked and felt no shame.”
Msiska said because couples leave their parents, churches, habits, cultures to form a new entity and identity, they need to do things together and not live separate lives.
“This is wrong and contrary to the word of God. Churches whose basis is the word of God encourage couples to attend same congregation.
“Couples should decide before they get marriage where their wedding should be officiated and attend that church thereafter. If they have not wedded in Church, they should decide to go to one church and have their marriage celebrated there. If one fails to compromise, they cannot call themselves Christians, because Christianity is about Love, reconciliation and tolerance,” he said.
Reverend Dr Davidson Chifungo, national director of Veritas College in Malawi said there are different ways couples can deal with the differences in churches.
“Withdrawal is a choice some couples make when they stop attending their respective churches. While this is sometimes advantageous in the short term, it could pose problems later on, especially if they decide to return to their churches.
“Conversion is another common option, with one spouse joining the other’s church. It helps make the converting spouse more accepted into their new family, but at the same time they may feel a lot of conflict and unhappiness about leaving their own church,” he said.
Chifungo further said couples could compromise— where both partners join a completely new church together. Alternatively, he said they could exist as a multi-faith family— where they both practice and share churches with each other.
“This option is sometimes better since neither person feels they have to give up a part of themselves. A slightly different variation is the ecumenical family where the two separate churches are combined to form a new set of traditions and beliefs within the family,” said Chifungo.
He said children should benefit from same church grounding – because it provides a profoundly important structure for organising life.