Fri | Jan 18, 2019

RGD, clergy courting again after row over marrying rights

Published:Friday | August 10, 2018 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue/Senior Gleaner Writer

The estrangement between the Registrar General's Department (RGD) and sections of the clergy over costs related to carrying out their duties as marriage officers began to thaw yesterday after a meeting between both parties.

President of the Jamaica Theological Seminary the Reverend Dr Garnett Roper, who spearheaded the meeting, said that a high-level team from the department met with the clergy, and several concerns were raised by both.

"RGD presented a kind of case that it's trying to tighten up some things. We have agreed to set up a committee to look at the Marriage Act of 1897 as it perceives a world that no longer exists," Roper told The Gleaner yesterday.

"The clergy thought that the law was outdated, and some of the requirements were onerous, unrealistic, and intrusive. The requirement that you have to tell them [RGD] when you are going off the island was from a time when you used to travel by ship, and that would be three months. Sometimes you don't remember you are leaving," Roper reported.

"They [RGD] have cited a litany of errors [in the completion of marriage records]. But if you have 1,600 clergy performing 3,000 ceremonies a year, you are going to have errors, some human, some deliberate, some fraud, all of that," he stated.

The meeting became necessary after a row between the department and the clergy over registration and annual fees for religious marriage officers escalated into the seizure of the register of the Suffragan Bishop of Kingston, the Right Revered Robert Thompson. According to Roper, the RGD said that it did not have Thompson's email address or his telephone number. That escalated into the seizure of his marriage register, which rendered him unable to officiate at any weddings. Thompson has called it quits on 45 years as a marriage officer.

Roper said that it was agreed during the meeting yesterday that the issue had caused an adversarial relationship between the RGD and the clergy and both were desirous of re-establishing amicable relations. He reported that it was proposed that other registers seized, providing there were no breaches, should be returned.

The RGD has agreed to conduct training for marriage officers if the different denominations host the sessions at their own facilities, Roper reported.

The clergy in attendance at yesterday's meeting represented several denominations. However, the Seventh-Day Adventists and Anglicans were absent.