(Those readers who are not interested in the research methods used should proceed to the next section – Why Intermarried Couples do not Become Single Church Couples. Readers interested in more information may contact me, Fr. Charles, at email@example.com)
Focus groups were used to construct a rich description of spouses’ and couples’ experiences and challenges.
After receiving the Diocesan Hierarch's blessings, priests were contacted in each Diocese in an initial effort to recruit couples for this study. In total, 38 priests assisted in this research.
Two different types of focus groups were conducted in each diocese. One was comprised of couples who were part of the “X” Generation (ages 20-34), and a second was comprised of Baby Boomers (ages 35-50).
A total of 202 participants took part in one of 20 focus groups. Each couple was inter-Christian and in most cases intercultural. Some were further identified as inter-Christian, intercultural, and interracial. Respondents were from 27 different cities, with some level of affiliation with one of 25 different Greek Orthodox Churches.
In addition to focus group participants, 174 intermarried spouses who reviewed the results posted on the Intermarriage Web site took part in this process. These individuals examined the results that were periodically posted and offered observations and descriptions on feedback forms.
When focus group participants involved in the IRP are considered with those individuals who visited the Intermarriage Web site, results from the IRP reflect 376 interfaith spouses' descriptions and observations.
Description of Interview Process
Before each focus group was conducted, individual participants were asked to complete a 24 item questionnaire that was designed to (a) gather demographic information, (b) identify factors contributing to their decision to intermarry, and (c) gather attitudinal information about interfaith marriage.
Prior to conducting each focus group, couples were reminded that they were not simply sharing information with me, but would indirectly be speaking to the Archbishop, Metropolitans, Bishops, Priests, and Lay Leaders of the GOA. I also sought to cultivate respect and candor for all perspectives. Each respondent was assured confidentiality.
Open-ended questions were used to generate conversation. Questions also tended to change as the research progressed. When redundant information emerged, new questions were constructed and new areas of inquiry were probed and introduced into the research process. This approach ensured that a broad, systematic description of intermarried spouses’ and couples’ personal experiences would emerge.
Techniques to Ensure Trustworthiness
In an effort to generate theory and description, a grounded theory approach and a naturalistic inquiry approach were utilized. Each of these approaches sought to address reliability and validity issues. Some examples of techniques used to ensure trustworthiness follow.
Twenty 60 — 90 minute member checks were conducted after each focus group. Member checks are essentially follow-up interviews that I employed after my analysis of each focus group.
A doctoral student familiar with the methodology and analysis procedures was also recruited to provide an independent analysis of a few select transcripts. My results were compared with this independent analysis to safeguard against the possibility that the research had been contaminated by my own personal biases.
Theoretical and coding notes (resembling a diary) were also kept on each focus group. These notes functioned to stimulate my growing perceptions of the culture I was investigating. They also served to guide and direct methodological decisions. This technique ensured that the research process was being guided by the information that was emerging.
A process auditor who was not directly involved in this research, but was intimately familiar with this type of research, was also enlisted to review the work and determine if the conclusions were supported by the evidence that emerged during the research process. This technique further ensured that the resulting information was both reliable and valid.
Rather then providing the reader with numerous statistical charts and tables that concern themselves with a discreet set of variables, the nature of this research was essentially qualitative. As such, the findings from the IRP will essentially resemble a story. Unlike most stories that are told from the perspective of one individual, however, the story that follows has emerged systematically, and is reflective of the observations and descriptions of 376 interfaith spouses who have some degree of affiliation with a Greek Orthodox Church.