The Church of England will offer two in one wedding and baptism services, officials said Thursday, as research shows increasing numbers of couples in Britain are having children out of wedlock.
Although the church does not sanction couples having children before marriage, officials said the new services were aimed at encouraging unmarried parents to eventually tie the knot.
AdvertisementThe service to be unveiled later Thursday allows couples to baptise their children after their wedding ceremony, and parents themselves can also get baptised at the same time.
A church spokesman said clergy would continue to teach that sex is best confined to marriage, but also recognise that it was "not standing in judgment on their past."
"The Church of England believes that the best place for sex is within marriage, and marriage is best for bringing up children. That hasn't changed," the spokesman said.
"This is a response to the demand that's 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."
Figures released earlier this year showed that around 44 percent of children are born to unmarried mothers in Britain.
Some clergy criticised the new service, saying it trivialised the church's role in the community.
"It is a pity they have not put in a funeral for grandma as well," the Bishop of Fulham in southwest London told The Times newspaper.
"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. I do not understand why they want to do it," the Right Reverend John Broadhurst said.