Some who come to this site will have family or friends who are Christadelphians whilst not being Christadelphians themselves. Their purpose may be to better understand them and to know how to relate to them. They may also be considering becoming Christadelphians themselves.
This area may be explored in more depth at a later stage. At this stage it is concerned more with another group which has a more immediate concern. That is those individuals who whilst not Christadelphians themselves are dating Christadelphians. I have had a few contacts from people who are in relationships with Christadelphians, but who are not Christadelphians themselves. They are interested in how it may affect them and it is only fair that this is clarified clearly, particularly if marriage is a possible consideration.
In many ways the difficulties they face are the same difficulties all those who have family or friends face. It is also a struggle those who are already married face if one partner shows an interest in being a Christadelphian, particularly if they subsequently decide to convert. It is also a difficulty shared with those who are disfellowshipped by the community and for the children of Christadelphians who do not accept the faith.
Christadelphians believe (in common with most Christians) that marriage with non-believers is wrong and they would quote an expression from the Bible, “unequally yoked” to describe this state. It should be noted here that historically most Christadelphians would also regard other Christians as being non-believers. Despite this belief, however, lots of Christadelphians do enter into relationships with non-Christadelphians and sometimes it leads to marriage. The Christadelphians do not specifically discipline their members who date non Christadelphians, but they do believe and teach that marriage with non believers is a sin. For that reason Christadelphians morally should not date non Christadelphians, but clearly they do as letters I receive demonstrate.
It should be recognised by Christadelphians that to have this belief and still enter into a relationship with a non believer creates a huge pressure on that person to convert which they may do for entirely the wrong reasons. It may also prove to be emotionally painful for the person they date if they feel compelled to end the relationship later as a result.
The disciplinary position for Christadelphians who marry “outside” can be found within the Christadelphian Ecclesial Guide, no 45:
But what is to be done in the case of an unmarried brother or sister who violates the apostolic law by marrying one not a believer (by which, of course, we are to understand, an obedient believer—one baptized into the faith of the gospel)? This is a difficult point to decide. Some are for taking no notice: others for withdrawing from the fellowship of the offender. Both courses are open to objection. ‘Taking no notice’ is to wink at the breach of the law of Christ, and implicate ourselves therein: a breach which gradually leads to other breaches until there is, in most cases, a complete falling away from the truth. On the other hand, the marriage cannot be undone; and to refuse to have anything further to do with the offender is to say that he has committed an unpardonable sin. Should we be justified in taking this ground? If he defend his act as a Scriptural one, and contend for indiscriminate right of marriage on the part of believers with unbelievers, there would doubtless be no alternative but withdrawal, for we may not make ourselves responsible (by fellowship) for doctrines or maxims that are in opposition to the law of God. But suppose there is a recognition of the Scriptural law in the case, and an admission of wrong, extenuated by necessity of marriage, and inability to find a sister, or some such plea, should we be justified in for ever refusing such an offender, as if he were a habitual drunkard or a thief? There must be some middle ground in such a case, and it is doubtless to be found in the practice of the London brethren. Brother J. J. Andrew, at whose suggestion this paragraph is inserted, says: “You know our plan (in the case of marriage with an alien having taken place in our midst). We pass a resolution of disapproval and send it to the brother or sister concerned. And, as a counter act, marriages in the faith are announced from the table on Sunday morning, as an expression of approval by the ecclesia of the principle on which they have taken place. It also serves, in a large ecclesia, as an introduction to all, instead of spreading gradually in a private manner.”
(the word “alien” was a word historically used to describe a non-Christadelphian.)
For the sake of ease of writing, “HE” will refer to the Christadelphian and “SHE” to the non-Christadelphian in this article and incidentally marriages out of the faith are more commonly this way round.
Whilst the Christadelphian entering into a relationship believes it is a sin and knows to marry would place him in a disciplinary position, often those they date do not know the difficulties involved, particularly if they come from a Christian background which is less exclusive than the Christadelphians. As time proceeds they become emotionally involved, but they can find they hit emotional barriers which are hard to overcome. The difficulty of course is that to move forward to marriage a Christadelphian has to engage in some pretty severe mental gymnastics which can only easily be allayed if their non Christadelphian date is converted. Without conversion to marry he has to actively disobey his moral beliefs, then to be able to return he has to clearly state contrition and of course if that contrition is not genuine he has played the hypocrite. He has wilfully sinned to satisfy natural inclinations knowing that the situation can be allayed by a formal recognition of sin later.
It should be noted that ladies who marry “out of the faith” have an additional problem, because their partners are considered scripturally to be “the Head” and the role of women is an issue that non Christadelphians should also be aware of.
It is difficult to explain this easily to a potential partner who will come to the situation with their own beliefs and mindset. As the relationship proceeds they will begin to grasp some of this, but may have reservations at converting, may have questions which cannot be easily answered, or indeed question some of the incongruities which are noted on this site.
Despite all these obstacles marriages by Christadelphians to non-Christadelphians do occur even without their partners being converted, although that severely decreases the odds of success.
In practical terms Christadelphians also believe in historical Christian viewpoints on marriage, courtship, modesty and chastity. They would generally not be supportive of having flings, but believe in establishing long-term relationships, although for someone who has not “committed” as a Christadelphian there is more latitude.
You should therefore be aware that you would be at the centre of them being in a compromised position with their faith. Whilst this will have undoubtedly have occurred because of human emotions, love, need, desire and so forth, they will still be a Christadelphian with Christadelphian beliefs. They will have a sense of unease and may very likely be under peer pressure too. They will want to correct this and will therefore quite probably want to find a way to get you interested and convert. If it does not occur there is a very strong chance they will not commit to marriage. It is important to understand this prior to committing too much emotion therefore to any relationship.
If the person you are with would marry regardless it would be considered a sin by the community and without a show of contrition can lead to disfellowship or exclusion. Even if this should happen it could always become a source of friction and pressure depending upon how involved you would be willing to be and how committed they are to their faith.
Those who are Christians of other denominations should also be aware that historically they will be considered to be part of an apostasy and a movement away from first century Christianity. Your beliefs may be relentlessly attacked in talks and you will be unlikely to be considered in fellowship unless you accept Christadelphian positions on all matters. You will also be unlikely to be allowed to break bread in remembrance of the death and resurrection of Christ.
The difficulty that you have is that you are approaching someone with a very different worldview to your own, whilst having the same natural inclinations for love and support. Much will depend on his degree of devotion as a Christadelphian as well as your ability to accept his views. It is difficult for him to express the mental gymnastics he needs to perform as well as the peer pressure he may come under to end the relationship. There is no easy way to answer this, although a gradual realisation of where he is at mentally may grow.
To make it work will require huge sensitivity, huge love and patience and it may require an ability to accept taboo areas which can never be discussed. In other words he may not convert you to his worldview and neither may he grasp or be willing to understand yours.
I would like to share my sympathy with all those who have knowingly been taken into such a situation. Unfortunately only you can weigh up whether it is worth continuing in such a relationship. Some do find a way, but it will quite probably not be that easy for you or for him.