Single people should be valued as much as married couples and people in relationships, according to a new report released by the Church of England on Wednesday that laid out recommendations to support a diverse, evolving society.
In the report, “Love Matters,” the archbishops of Canterbury and York said that “single people must be valued at the heart of our society” and noted that Jesus was single.
“Jesus’ own singleness should ensure that the Church of England celebrates singleness,” the report noted, reaffirming a traditional understanding that Jesus never married.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York — the Most Rev. Justin Welby and the Most Rev. Stephen Cottrell — established a commission in March 2021 to examine relationships and family, after recognizing that “family life in the 21st century is fluid and diverse.” The commission’s report laid out five priorities for supporting families and households.
The report recommended that the church not regard singleness “as lesser than living in a couple relationship, reflecting an evolving stance from the church, which has long emphasized the importance of heteronormative marriages and voted to allow divorced people to remarry only two decades ago.
It was the third report in a trilogy, after the church examined housing and social care, and comes not long after the church announced that it was considering using gender-neutral language to refer to God and apologized for its past treatment of L.G.B.T.Q. people, but maintained it would still not allow same-sex marriages in church after years of debate.
The Church of England is the original church in the global Anglican Communion, a gathering of churches that claims tens of millions of members in more than 160 countries.
Among the top five ambitions the report outlined, it included a recommendation that the church should “honor and celebrate singleness, whether through choice or circumstance, and recognize the full place of single people within the Church and society.”
“We have an amazing opportunity to reimagine a diverse society in which all families and loving relationships are valued and strengthened,” the report said, “promoting the stability that enables us all to thrive in a variety of family constellations, including being single.”
The archbishops cited several reasons for staying single, including that “sometimes the right partner has not been found, and sometimes separation, divorce or death has resulted in the loss of a partner.”
The report also acknowledged the growing number of single people, as young people are establishing careers and pursuing other interests before getting married.
People are increasingly living alone, data shows. Britain saw a more than 8 percent jump in people living alone from 2011 to 2021, according to the Office for National Statistics. In the United States, about 29 percent of all households in 2022 were single-person households, according to census data.
The report said “living alone does not make someone lonely or isolated, especially if people are well supported and connected,” and it touched on the isolating impact of the coronavirus pandemic and called for more “suitable social housing” to be made available for single people who need a place to live after separation, divorce or serving a prison sentence.
The archbishops also called for the church to “value families in all their diversity” and “empower children and young people” as top priorities.
Archbishops Welby and Cottrell, in a foreword, said the “cost-of-living crisis” was creating “a perpetual struggle for survival. The report also included findings of the increased sense of loneliness and stigma that L.G.B.T.Q. people, including children, feel from the church.