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Christian Labour MP says allowing same-sex marriages in the Church of England would boost falling congregation numbers

by Kelly Valencia

The Church of England has been told a change in its stance on same-sex marriage would impact its falling congregation numbers.

Speaking in Parliament, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw told Second Church States Commissioner Andrew Selous the change might see more people wanting to marry in places of worship.

He said: "There might be more weddings in church were the Church of England to allow same-sex couples to get married in church and in that context, does he welcome the commission's conclusion, as I do, that 'a family does not necessitate a certain type of relationship or specific family form, but what matters is the depth of the connections and support that can be relied upon'?

"Is this not completely inconsistent with the Church's continued rejection of families where the couple happens to be of the same sex and its refusal to solemnise their committed relationships?"

The Exeter MP was quoting a Church of England report on families and households published earlier this year that highlighted the value of loving family relationships' "in all their diversity" within society, finding no ideal family model.

The 'Love Matters' report from the Archbishops' Families and Households Commission concluded that "the quality of family relationships matters more than the form a family takes".

Selous responded: "What I would say to him, who I know follows these issues very closely, (is) that this was an independent report to the archbishops. It has been welcomed by the Church. It is based on deep evidence collecting over a two-year period, talking to people up and down the country, particularly young people.

"I agree with him, there are some very sensible suggestions within it, and the matters which he refers to are of course on the agenda of the General Synod of the Church of England which will take place in York early next month."

The exchange occurred just after Conservative MP Tim Loughton had drawn attention to the falling number of people attending Church of England churches in the last few years.

The East Worthing and Shoreham MP told the Commons: "In 2011, there were 51,000 weddings in Church of England churches. By 2019, pre-Covid, that figure had dropped to 29,000.

"Since the current Archbishop of Canterbury (Justin Welby) came into office in 2013, as he readily admitted last week, the average congregational attendance has dropped by 15 per cent."

He asked: "How can the Church of England influence the population on family relationship and marriage matters when too many of the congregations are voting with their feet?"

The Love Matters report faced critcisim on its release for not doing more to promote marriage.

Speaking to Premier, Harry Benson, research director for the Marriage Foundation, said: "The Church of England's view is all families are equally stable - It's just wrong, it's nonsense. 

"I'm afraid they've damned marriage with faint praise. And pretty much abandoned any sense of that marriage is the preferred or best way of running family life. It's not guaranteed, but it stacks the odds in your favour."

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