Page last updated at 01:53 GMT, Thursday, 23 July 2009 02:53 UK

CofE weddings to include baptism

By John McManus
BBC News

Pregnant bride in a wedding dress
The Church wants to welcome more couples to its services

Unmarried couples with children will now be able to baptise their children and get married in the same occasion.

The Church of England has issued new guidelines allowing the two ceremonies to be combined in one service.

The Church says it is responding to a real demand, and denies that the change will undermine its teaching on the sinfulness of sex outside of marriage.

Couples tying the knot will be able to take part in their children's baptism or say a simple prayer of blessing.

Baptism is regarded as one of the holiest sacraments that Christianity offers, as it signifies the church community welcoming the child into the family of God.

It usually takes place within a traditional Sunday service, but the new rules mean that it could become a popular add-on for wedding services.

Research

The changes have come about from research that the Church undertook into couples who were getting married at the altar.

They found that one-fifth of couples taking part in the marriage ceremony already had children.

They hope that by combining the two sacraments, the Church will be meeting the needs of real families who might have been discouraged from having a church wedding.

A spokesman also denied that the changes meant the Church was contradicting itself on its own teaching that sex should only take place within marriage.

HAVE YOUR SAY
This is yet another instance of the C of E following rather than leading
David Lee, Leeds

He said that traditional teaching still pointed to celibacy outside of marriage, and that children were best served by being raised by married parents.

"The Church wants to be able to say 'yes' to people who need our help, and this is a way for us to meet demand for these types of services," he said.

The Bishop of Fulham, the Right Reverend John Broadhurst, has called the new rules "patronising", and says they reflect a lack of pastoral experience.

Other members of the clergy have welcomed them, however.

The Reverend Tim Sledge, vicar of Romsey in the diocese of Winchester, has been asked to "merge" wedding and baptism services several times.

He said: "It has been lovely to give couples this flexibility to enjoy an extra special celebration for the whole family.

"Now the guidelines are available online, the Church can 'say yes' and offer an even warmer wedding welcome to couples with children."



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