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Honoring Singles. Jesus was one too.


LONDON — Single people should be celebrated and not seen as ‘inferior’ to married people, the Church of England says in a new 200-page report titled ‘Love Matters’. After all, he notes, Jesus was celibate too.

The report, released Wednesday by a church commission on families and households, urges people to honor celibacy and one-person households — and to be open to reinventing a society that empowers everyone to flourish, including single people.

“The Commission strongly believes that single people should be valued at the heart of our society,” the report said. “The celibacy of Jesus should ensure that the Church of England celebrates celibacy and does not view it as inferior to married life.” The commission was formed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

The report notes that an “increasing number of people” in society are not in a relationship or living with relatives – and that being single “can be a deliberate choice”.

An individual may not be in a relationship for a myriad of reasons, the report states. “Sometimes the right partner was not found, and sometimes separation, divorce or death resulted in the loss of a partner,” he says.

Church leaders seem to be looking through a more modern lens when it comes to traditional religious teachings, relationships and family constructs.

The Church of England has long taught that marriage is a gift from God – for the purpose of procreating and raising children in the Christian faith. As recently as 2019, church councils noted that sex outside of marriage is “considered to be inconsistent with God’s purposes for human beings” and that “for Christians, marriage – it’s is the lifelong union between a man and a woman, contracted with the making of vows – remains the appropriate context for sexual activity.

Wednesday’s report notes that “singlehood does not necessarily imply celibacy, although that is the choice some celibate people make in religious communities.”

The number of people living alone in the UK is on the rise, data shows. According to the Office for National Statistics, Britain has seen an 8.3% increase in the number of people living alone over the past decade. Single-person households range from almost 26% of the total in London to 36% in Scotland, the office said. In the United States, 29% of households are made up of just one person, according to data from the US Census Bureau. Nearly 38 million people live alone in the United States, the bureau concluded last year, up from 37 million single-person households in 2021.

Those who live alone are more likely to feel less more financially stable than couples and report higher levels of anxiety, according to the UK government.

The Church of England report also explores the cost of living crisis rocking Britain and addresses global issues including Russia’s war in Ukraine and the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

Advocates of same-sex marriage argue that there is still work to be done. The Church of England sparked anger in January when it announced, after years of debate and consultation, that it would not allow same-sex couples to marry in its churches.

The church said its teaching that marriage is between “one man and one woman for life” would not change, but that same-sex couples are welcome to have their civil partnership blessed.

In 2018, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got married at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. But shortly before, such a wedding – including service, celebrant and venue – would have been impossible. Their union reportedly faced opposition from the church as Markle was divorced and her ex-husband still alive. “This is a historic moment for a fundamental British institution,” reported The Post at the time.

How the Church of England moved on divorce, from Henry VIII to Meghan Markle

In February, the church said it was exploring whether to use gender-neutral language instead of referring to God only with male pronouns, such as “He” or “Our Father.” Any changes would be major after centuries of prayer and teaching and would require the approval of the General Synod of the Church of England.

Some commentators have characterized the proposed decision as political decision near the church – with a priest telling The Times of London that some people ‘think we’re a bit awake’.

Does God do they/them? The Church of England considers pronouns gender neutral.

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