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Archbishops set up Commission to focus on families and impact of pandemic

18 March 2021

Archbishops of Canterbury and York hope to probe relationship and solo households

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THE Archbishops of Canterbury and York have announced a new Commission to support families and households and to consider the impact of the pandemic on these groups.

The Commission will look at how to support and improve the work of the Church of England with these groups, and inform public policy in this area. Details have yet to be announced, but work will start in May. The Commission is expected to report in November 2022. It will build on work carried out by the Archbishops’ Commission on Housing, Church and Community, which published its final report Coming Home last month (News, 26 February).

The Commission for Families and Households will be co-chaired by the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, and Professor Janet Walker, an emeritus professor at Newcastle University who has published research on marriage and divorce, family mediation, relationship counselling, family communication, post-divorce parenting, domestic violence, crime, and policing.

She said on Tuesday that the Commission would address the diversity of families and households in modern Britain. “This diversity brings new opportunities as well as complex challenges.

“The pandemic has reminded us just how important strong, stable family relationships are to the psychological, emotional, social, and economic well-being of adults and children, and highlighted severe inequalities in our communities. While some people have enjoyed an increase in quality family time, others have experienced intense loneliness, isolation, anxiety, ill-health, or loss.”

Bishop Butler said: “What makes a good family in our times? And when one third of our households are a single person, just what does it mean for us all to have healthy household life?”

Full membership of the Commission will be announced at a later date.

Archbishop Welby said on Tuesday: “When I wrote Reimagining Britain [News, 2 March 2018; Books, 16 March 2018], I hoped to offer a big vision for our nation, but I knew it had to be rooted in the most important thing for any community: how we show our love for our fellow human beings. That is why I am delighted that the Commission for Families and Households has been set up, to help us understand how we can best live together in a way that considers everyone in the dignity and hope of God’s light.”

The Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, said: “We are at our best and our most creative and most fully ourselves when we discover who we are in community with others: in relationships; in family groups; and as interdependent communities. . . I’m delighted that this Commission will be exploring how we can best support families and households to be places where we can all flourish.”

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