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Marriage, baptism at one go in this church

THE Church of England is offering couples a two-for-one service - marriage for them and baptisms for their children.

The church is recognizing the changing reality of British families, it said yesterday. Statistics show that 44 percent of children in Britain are born to unmarried women, and the church's own research found that one in five couples seeking a church wedding already had children either together or from a previous relationship.

New guidelines sent to the Church of England's 16,000 churches encourage services that combine a wedding with a christening or a service of thanksgiving for the birth of a child. Some clergy welcomed the latest move, but others argued it undermined Anglican teaching about the sanctity of marriage.

John Broadhurst, Bishop of Fulham, told The Times that the move was an unfortunate attempt to be trendy. "It is a pity they have not put in a funeral for grandma as well."

Though the church said it still believes the best place for sex is within marriage, it says it is responding to demand and a changing world.

"Patterns of relationship and marriage within society are presenting new opportunities," said Stephen Platten, the Bishop of Wakefield.

The new guidelines are the latest attempt by the church to compete with increasingly popular civil marriages. Last year the church changed rules to make it easier for couples to marry in the church of their choice, rather than only in their local parish.

Reverend Tim Sledge, the vicar of Romsey in southern England, said he had already offered the dual service many times. "It has been lovely to give couples this flexibility to enjoy an extra-special celebration for the whole family."


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