Inter-American Division staffand
When Luis Miguel Acevedo, ADRA director for the Dominican Republic, tied the knot in 2012, he and his bride, Arjoy, had to visit a court to legally register their marriage.
The couple also had to pay the judge a fee, which currently amounts to about US$200, to officiate the wedding. Only then could they head to the local Adventist church for the religious ceremony.
The extra bureaucracy experienced by Acevedo and other Seventh-day Adventist couples ended last week when the Dominican Republic’s government authorized about 80 Adventist ministers to officiate civil marriages on the Caribbean nation.
The Central Electoral Board, a government agency that oversees marriages as well as elections, accredited the ministers during a ceremony in Santo Domingo, fulfilling a requirement of a 2010 law that allows Protestant churches to perform state-recognized civil marriages.
Before the law, only judges and Catholic priests were allowed to perform the unions. Adventist couples had to go to court to be married by a judge and then hold the wedding at church.
“A family should be based on legality,” Roberto Rosario Márquez, president of the Central Electoral Board, said at the record-sized accreditation ceremony at the Ensanche Quisqueya Seventh-day Adventist Church. “A family should be an institution formed by a man and a woman.”
Cesario Acevedo, president of the Adventist Church in the Dominican Republic, thanked Rosario and his staff on behalf of church members.
“We commit ourselves before God to fully abide by the laws governing the solemn responsibility to make the sacred matrimonial ceremony,” Acevedo said.
The new law, No. 198-11, stipulates that churches are now responsible for record books and religious marriage certificates as well as obtaining accreditation and training for ministers, pastors, and priests.
Teófilo Silvestre, executive secretary of the church in the Dominican Republic, said the church began the process of accreditation with government leaders in 2013.
“Our ministers now have the opportunity to be public servants recognized by the state and can provide these services to Seventh-day Adventists as well as to those from other churches,” he said.
Accredited Adventist ministers will hold the status of court judges when performing marriage ceremonies. But they will not need to charge for their services as do judges. This is good news for many people who struggle to cover the expense, said Acevedo, the ADRA director.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity because many people cannot afford to pay the judge,” he said Monday.
Sylvester said the change in the law promised to enhance the church’s role in society.
“The Adventist Church has an opportunity to be a positive influence over society and strengthen families according to Christian norms,” he said.
During the accreditation ceremony, each Adventist minister received a special identification card with their approved status. The card also allows access to government facilities.
For now, just 80 of the 270 Adventist ministers across the island hold this accreditation.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Dominican Republic was established in 1907 and has more than 303,000 church members worshiping in 1,262 congregations.