Co-parenting and the local church

 
Helen Thorne | April 15th 2013

There's a growing phenomenon in the UK. A service aimed at single women - and single men. It promises the chance of becoming a parent. But without the commitment of having a spouse, or a partner or even an ex. It's co-parenting.

Not to be confused with the way the term in used in the US or other parts of Europe (where often it describes a relationship whereby a divorced couple seek to co-operate for the good of the children), it's a simple scheme. You log on to a website, find a mate with suitable characteristics and then arrange to meet to exchange bodily fluids. You continue to meet until conception occurs. After that ... it's up to you. Some co-parents keep in touch and the fathers have some meaningful, if limited, contact with their children. Other dads simply walk away with the blessing of their co-parent, their job done. No money is exchanged. No health checks mandated. No awkward questions asked ... you don't even have to give your surname.

Billed as a chance for two consenting adults to pursue their dream of becoming parents, no strings attached, it attracts a range of clients from the desperate to the devious. For some adults, it no doubt has helped them conceive a well-loved child. For others, it has brought heart-break, disease and increased despair.

It's important not to underestimate the pain that singleness and childlessness can, at times, bring. Many single people long to be parents. And if that special someone doesn't come along, it can seem natural to take matters into your own hands and do whatever it takes to bring a new life into being before the relentless body-clock ticks too far.

But there are consequences.

 

  • Physically, there are huge risks in having unprotected intercourse with someone you barely know.
  • Emotionally, there are burdens to carry for parent and child as key relationships are deliberately remote and largely that of convenience not love.
  • Spiritually, there is the inescapable fact that God's good design for sex, parenthood and families is being ignored.

 

So how can churches respond?

Largely, by making sure that single people in our congregations are supported. Of course, not all single Christians will be tempted by such schemes, probably not even most - but a few will be, a few are. Having relationships that are deep enough to talk about such temptation is crucial. Knowing that there are informed Christians in the congregation willing to discuss such matters helps. Listening empathetically to stories of dashed hopes and longings can be comforting. Reminding single people that the Bible says singleness is good and Jesus came to bring life in all its fullness to all his followers (not just the married ones) is vital. Encouraging people to trust in the sovereignty of God and worship him alone rather than him plus some idealized life-scenario is transformational. And pointing people to the eternal bliss of heaven, while fully including them in every aspect of the church in the here and now provides unswerving motivation.

Childlessness can be devastating. But the cross and Christ-centred community provide the answer that Christians so desperately need. And, unlike co-parenting, that's one free service that will never disappoint ...

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Helen Thorne

Helen Thorne is Director of Training and Resources at Biblical Counselling UK and an experienced counsellor. She formerly worked with London City Mission and has written Purity is Possible, Walking with Domestic Abuse Suffers and 5 Things to Pray for Your City. She attends Dundonald Church in Raynes Park, London.