Couples living together with children born out of wedlock will be able to get married and have their offspring baptized at a single ceremony, the (Anglican) Church of England has announced.
“Baptism normally is celebrated in a Sunday act of worship, but patterns of relationship and marriage within society are presenting new opportunities for the Church,” said Bishop Stephen Platten, chairperson of an Anglican liturgical commission which drew up the guidelines. The development follows research commissioned by the church which found that in representative sample areas of the country one in five couples who sought church weddings already had children. Still, the guidelines issued on July 23 face criticism from some Christian groups, although the church defends itself.”The Church believes that the best place for sex is within marriage, and marriage is the best place for bringing up children,” a Church of England spokesperson told Ecumenical News International. “That hasn’t changed. This is a response to the demand that is on us as the church to meet people who come to us for this key event in their lives. Not standing in judgment on their past, but welcoming them and pointing to a fresh future.”Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute, a body that upholds the Bible as the “supreme authority” for life, said, “The Church of England is charged with upholding the gospel of forgiveness, but forgiveness depends upon repentance, and we would expect the service to contain an expression of repentance for what the Book of Common Prayer calls ‘fornication.'”David Phillips of the Church Society said the proper place for sex is within marriage and the teaching of the church will be confused by the new measure. Stephen Parkinson of the Forward in Faith group said baptism should take place in a Sunday morning act of worship where parishioners 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,” he stated.