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Cohabiting couples - an increasing and difficult pastoral issue. A  BBC programme highlighted the problem.

Radio 4ís "Sunday" Programme on 30th April included an interview with the Revíd Donald Alistair, vicar of St Mary Cheadle, on the subject of the baptism of children of unmarried parents. It turned out that the church had recently put something in writing for enquirers, along the lines of baptism requiring a statement of living the Christian life, the Christian life being defined by the bible, and the bible saying that you really ought to be married if you want to live together and bring up a family The radio didnít go into the details of what the churchís leaflet said, because someone had complained to the bishop about it and the vicar had decided to withdraw the leaflet.

Donald came across as not very pleased to come on the radio, but persuaded that it was better to face the issue rather than hide behind silence - for which I admired him. I wasnít so happy about the content of the interview. Donald made the point fairly clearly that living together outside marriage is a departure from the way the Christian Faith says we should do things, and he was particularly good on pointing out that some couples live together outside marriage not because they havenít got around to booking the wedding, but because on principle they donít wish to get married (yet?), However, Donald had obviously been persuaded by his bishop that this shouldnít be a reason for refusing to baptise a baby. There was a conversation on air about whether this was tantamount to condemning the child for the parentsí failings. Donald didnít actually say he would be baptising all babies from now on but he did say that he had decided to inspect the canon which says that no minister shall refuse to baptise. Both he and the presenter (Roger Boulton) spoke as if the law obliged clergy to baptise.

So I wrote to the BBC pointing out that the canon doesnít say that. Delay for preparation is OK, there is ho time-limit set for the delay, and it is reasonable for the minister to deduce that preparation has not been received until the couple have put their lives in order ... by marrying, among other more important things.

The BBC replied very politely, saying that perhaps many people would consider living together outside marriage was a perfectly Christian way in which to live? Cíest la vie aujourdíhui.

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