WEDDINGS at which the couple’s children are also baptised have been legal for years, a Church House spokesman said this week. An initiative promoting such services had been criticised for giving tacit approval to sex outside marriage.
The rite for marriage with holy baptism starts with a couple’s taking their wedding vows, moves to their making baptismal vows on behalf of their children, and can end with holy communion.
C of E publicity put out last week to accompany new guidelines for the clergy about the service said that it showed that the Church welcomed prospective married couples with children, and wanted the whole family to have a special occasion and a new start.
An alternative of marriage with thanksgiving for the birth of the child is also officially suggested.
When the national press reported the move, it also reported complaints that there had been inadequate consultation with the bishops, that it took baptisms away from the Sunday services, and that it tried to combine very different services into one. The Church of England was accused of giving approval to having children out of wedlock.
The Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Revd John Broadhurst, called the service “trendy”. Another unnamed bishop said it was “nuts”. A spokesman for the Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Foster, said on Wednesday that the service should not be given publicity.
In a robust response, Church House said on Wednesday, however, that all the constituent parts of the service had been approved by the Bishops. “It has always been possible to combine different services in these ways. The public just didn’t know about it,” a spokesman said. Giving publicity to these options was not intended to introduce anything new, but to show people that they had a choice.
“Research by the Archbishops’ Council’s Wedding Project in Bradford and Buckinghamshire shows that one in five couples who come to church for a wedding already have children either from their relationship or from a previous relationship.”
More couples than ever were now living together before marriage. Statistics showed that it was having children rather than getting married which many people now saw as the first milestone in their adult life.
The Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, chairman of the Liturgical Commission, writing in today’s Church Times, argues: “People who might have been reluctant or nervous to ask for marriage to be combined with another rite — either thanksgiving or baptism — need to be given the confidence to ask.”
The guidelines about about the combined occasional offices are given at http://cofe.anglican.org
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