Giving a new meaning to Married with Children, the Church of England has introduced a family-friendly ceremony where you and your co-habitating partner can marry, and your progeny can be baptized. The fee the church charges is virtually the same as if the ceremonies were conducted on separate occasions. A spokesman for the Church said the ceremony was environmentally and socially responsible given the substantial post-ceremony savings in hiring a venue and a caterer. (No, this is not a spoof.)
“Family-friendly weddings” will make it easier for those with children to marry in church, the Church of England said on Thursday as it launched an appeal to cohabiting couples in an increasingly secular Britain. If successful, it would also mean more young people being baptized into the Church.
The decision follows research showing that one in five couples in Britain who get married in church already have children. But critics say such a move condones sex before marriage and will reinforce the trend toward cohabitation.
“We are not changing our teachings. It is not something that should particularly contradict views of traditionalists,” said a spokesman for the Church, which has about 1.7 million regular worshippers, but which has seen Sunday church attendance in Britain decline sharply over the past decade.
Stephen Parkinson, of the Anglo-Catholic group Forward in Faith, said: “The proper place for a baptism is not during a wedding but during the Sunday morning act of worship so the congregation can welcome a new Christian. It is a shame that what should be a bride’s day now stands to be hijacked by screaming kids.”
Stephen Platten, Bishop of Wakefield and chairman of the liturgical commission, which drew up the service, said: “This does not mean the Church is changing its teaching. This is a way for the Church to reinforce its commitment to marriage. The Church has always attempted to meet people where they are. But it has also tried to teach something of what it believes the Christian faith to be.”
Parkinson was not asked how it was possible for a bride to hijack her own wedding when she retains the option of separate ceremonies.
At the official Church of England website you can find the news release, A wider wedding welcome for families – Church offers family-friendly weddings for couples with children, as well as the liturgical guidelines.
Addendum. Commenter Peter Carey wondered about whether there really were fees for sacraments. There are indeed fees as this discussion at the recent C of E synod illustrates.