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Ministry Today – Serving and empowering church leaders

Most pastors in America realize the problem of cohabitation among unwed parents has become a cultural norm—one that's often just as common in the church as outside it. But across the Pond, the moral dilemma is being addressed by the Church of England with what one bishop calls a "nutty" solution.

Beginning this week, Anglican leaders can now officiate a "hatch-and-match" service—for the equivalent of $450 per ceremony—that both marries unwed couples and baptizes their children. Responding to recent reports that show almost 44 percent of children in England are born to unwed mothers, the Church says it aims to reconcile families "living in sin" while offering services that are more relevant to the average British family.

“I suspect a lot of clergy have done services like this already," said Michael Scott-Joynt, bishop of Winchester. "This will help clergy who might not otherwise feel competent when asked to do this.”

As expected, however, not every church leader thinks this is a good idea. "It is a pity they have not put in a funeral for grandma as well," joked Fulham Bishop John Broadhurst. "What are they playing at? It seems trendy, and it reveals a complete lack of awareness of the reality of what goes on in parishes.”

Other critics offered harsher opinions, specifically concerning the misunderstanding this could create on the Church's stance on marriage and its "lax" treatment of baptism. Yet representatives from the Church of England say it's merely a case of adjusting to contemporary culture.

“This does not mean the Church is changing its teaching," said Stephen Platten, bishop of Wakefield and chairman of the group that created the two-in-one liturgy. "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.” [timesonline.co.uk, 7/23/09]

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