The Church of England unveils a two-in-one wedding and baptism liturgy today as it seeks to make peace with families “living in sin.”
The “hatch-and-match” service allows couples to baptise their children after the wedding ceremony. Parents can even get baptised themselves.
The aim is to encourage cohabiting parents to marry as the Church tries to become more relevant to the way people live their lives, but critics said that it appeared to sanction having children out of wedlock. One bishop described the idea as “nutty”. The liturgy, costing £272, is being sent out to dioceses and parish clergy today.
The move comes after research commissioned by the archbishops of Canterbury and York found that increasing numbers of couples marrying in church already had children. The latest figures on births and marriages show that about 44 per cent of children are born to unmarried women.
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.”
David Phillips, general secretary of the evangelical Church Society, said: “Putting these services together seems unwise. The proper place for sex is within marriage. That should be what people are taught when seeking baptism. If this is going to confuse the teaching of the Church, it does not seem a good way forward.”
However, the Bishop of Winchester, the Right Rev Michael Scott-Joynt — an evangelical and the Church’s spokesman on marriage — said: “I suspect a lot of clergy have done services like this already. This will help clergy who might not otherwise feel competent when asked to do this.”