Family and marriage

The family

The family is the primary social unit

The Archbishop said: "The well-being of the whole community requires that children, so far as possible, be brought up by their own parents as members of one family, with all the give and take that family life demands.

For it is within the family that we first learn what it means to love, to trust and to care for one another. We learn how to forgive, how to overcome and how to grow. These lessons are not optional, and for the fabric of society to remain strong, the state and the laws of the land need to support and encourage families.

I was raised in Uganda in an extended family of uncles, aunties and grandparents. During vacations as a child, I spent holidays with one of my grandparents. The lessons learnt there have sustained me. Marriage is not just about the couple and their children, for they need also the openness of other families around them. When my wife and I arrived in this country our children were not yet born. We did not have the joy of grandparents, uncles and aunties in the same neighbourhood. But we were very fortunate to become part of a church where our children could have that extension of learning from other people."

Foster parenting

The Archbishop is a foster parent. On his pilgrimage of prayer, witness and blessing across the Diocese of York, he met members of East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s fostering team and spoke to foster carers and young people who have experienced foster care.

Archbishop with Dave Glenville, East Riding of Yorkshire Council's fostering team manager; foster carer Lynette Booth-Malone; Councillor Julie Abraham, the Council's portfolio holder for children, young people and education; and foster carers East Riding of Yorkshire Council

Archbishop Sentamu said: “When Jesus was telling his disciples to let the children come to him, he told them that whoever welcomes a child in his name welcomes him. It is both a great responsibility and a great privilege to be involved in the lives of young people. We owe them our very best because in them we encounter the face of Jesus Christ.

“I know this for myself, as my wife Margaret and I fostered two children who have now grown up and we continue to be immensely proud of them.”

Fostering is about improving the lives of looked-after children and young people, providing them with a family home. Some children may only need fostering for a short period, and others may need to be looked after until they are ready to become independent.

People from all walks of life, single, married or co-habiting, with or without families, heterosexual, lesbian or gay, can be foster carers. Find out more by contacting your local council or the UK Government - Foster carers

In the Archbishop's book Agape Love Stories,  the Reverend David Tomlinson contributed a chapter and shared how he and his wife Davina lived with an open house in the west of Scotland for nine years, helping people from all walks of life who found themselves in need.

The role of fathers

Dr. John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, in November 2007, called upon the Government to abandon its plans to remove the requirement for a father in IVF treatment.

The Government intended to remove the current 'requirement for a father' provision from section 13(5) of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. The Archbishop spoke in the Lords stating; 'Such proposals create a false dichotomy which seeks to place 'the welfare and needs of the child' against a child's 'requirement for a father'.  

'The right of a prospective parent to a child by any means necessary must not triumph over the welfare of children who are brought into the world as a result of the treatment as authorised under the current legislation. To do so would be to enshrine in law that the right to have a child should take precedence over the welfare of the child itself.'

'The law is a statement of public policy. This is not about messages which are sent about what is or isn't acceptable in terms of family arrangements, but more fundamentally about the roles of parents, and in particular the need for a father wherever possible.'

Celebrating marriage

Back in 2007, the Archbishop wrote that the government needs to undertake a policy reorientation that incorporates the benefits of marriage to society as a whole rather than relegating it to just another lifestyle choice. 

He also suggested that there is an opportunity for the government to further invest in our society by supporting parents who stay at home for the sake of raising their children. 'A well-raised child is a benefit not only to the parents but also a gift to tomorrow's world. When a married couple on a low income have children below the age of 11, one of the parents should be given the incentive to stay at home and be paid a living wage, if they also commit themselves to voluntary work in the community. Such a scheme would benefit community, parents and children. This view is informed by the personal experience of my own childhood in Uganda and the raising of our own children in a vicarage. We were there for our children at all times.'

His article 'Marriage Matters' followed the research which was presented to the Archbishops' Council of the Church of England exploring modern-day attitudes to marriage in a society where marriage is in decline. The Archbishop has also reflected on the vows made when individuals marry.

Marriage represents the lifelong commitment to a partner. The Church of England marriage research exploring modern-day attitudes confirmed that there is a continuing desire for the security and companionship that marriage provides. Three reasons were given as the decision to marry as: 

  • commitment
  • children
  • stability

The law prevents ministers of the Church of England from carrying out same-sex marriages. And although there are no authorised services for blessing a same-sex civil marriage, your local church can still support you with prayer.  You can find out more about getting married in an Anglican Church, find out more on the Church of England's wedding website here.

The Archbishop spoke about the importance of marriage and on issues of Church leadership in Jamaica in 2012 as part of his visit to mark the country's 50 years of independence.