UK

Church urged to allow same sex marriage to boost falling congregation numbers

Labour former minister Ben Bradshaw urged the Church of England’s representative in Parliament to change its stance on same-sex marriage (Alamy/PA)
Labour former minister Ben Bradshaw urged the Church of England’s representative in Parliament to change its stance on same-sex marriage (Alamy/PA) Labour former minister Ben Bradshaw urged the Church of England’s representative in Parliament to change its stance on same-sex marriage (Alamy/PA)

Dwindling congregation numbers would be boosted if the Church of England allowed same-sex weddings in its churches, Parliament has heard.

Labour former minister Ben Bradshaw urged the Church of England’s representative in Parliament to change its stance on same-sex marriage, amid falling numbers of people attending services.

Earlier this year the Church said it would bless same-sex civil marriages for the first time, but its position on gay marriage has not changed and same-sex couples are unable to marry in churches.

Exeter MP Mr Bradshaw told the Commons: “There might be more weddings in church were the Church of England to allow same-sex couples to get married in church.”

Stafford Hospital inquiry
Stafford Hospital inquiry Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw urged the Church of England to change its stance on same-sex marriage (David Jones/PA)

Reading from a report, the Labour MP added: “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?”

Conservative MP and Second Church Estates Commissioner Andrew 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.”

Conservative former minister Tim Loughton meanwhile drew attention to the falling number of people attending the Church of England over the last decade.

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%.”

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?”