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Volume 530: debated on Thursday 30 June 2011

6. What steps the Church Commissioners are taking to encourage marriages in Church of England buildings. (62908)

The Church of England values the sacrament of marriage, it is keen to encourage marriage in churches wherever possible and it has recently changed the rules to enable couples to marry more easily when they would like to marry in church.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that this is not just about buildings, but that organists and musicians, of whom I confess to being one, make a valuable contribution, and that the Church should promote those aspects as a package to encourage church weddings?

My hon. Friend was a much-respected organist and director of church music, and I think that one of the glories of England is church music, choirs and organ music. One reason many people want to marry in Church of England churches is the contribution of the choir and the organist.

I have married more people than, I think, anybody else in this House, and it was always great fun marrying couples in church, but the archbishop’s special licence system involved a lot of people, frankly, telling fibs about where they lived, so I hope that that will be reformed. Would it not help if the Church of England decided that it would like now to hold civil partnership ceremonies in its churches?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, that was a matter of much debate during the passage of the Equalities Bill both in this House and in the other place. It was resolved that there would be no change unless the General Synod agreed, and that is where the position lies today.