Masaka- Concerned with the increasing number of Christians held in marriage of cohabitation, West Buganda Diocese have adopted the idea of joint weddings to attract more Christian couples into exchanging matrimonial vows.
Bishop Henry Katumba Tamale says the leadership has already endorsed the concept, with an intention of simplifying church marriages, thereby attracting more people to embrace it.
He explains that unlike the usual mass weddings where couples are required to contribute towards the ceremonies; expenses of the planned joint-weddings will entirely be catered for by the Church.
Bishop Katumba reveals that the church agreed to dedicate the new year to strengthening the family institution, but this cannot be achieved when fewer people are apparently embracing the idea despite high numbers living in cohabitation.
“We do not intend to organise the ordinary joint weddings. Ours will be more colourful and honourable and couples will have the opportunity to be wedded by the bishop himself,” he notes.
Although Bishop Katumba cannot openly give figures of couples exchanging matrimonial vows, he acknowledges the decline which accordingly affects the decorum of holly families that form the foundation of the church and society.
According to the bishop, the intervention will eliminate donor fatigue among Christians which has sometimes scared off many people from organising weddings, fearing the associated costs.
“Often times, the Christians that we have in our respective churches run to the respective Christian donors to solicit funds to organise weddings and this one weighs them down. Besides there are other many projects we have as the diocese and we run to the same people for support. We thought this concept will waive the burden to our people and the Church ministers,’ he explains.
Using the analogy of stable and faithful family, from which Christ was born, Bishop Katumba observes that the diocese also intends to build responsible and self-sustaining families that can properly raise their children.
The bishop observes that his congregation is willfully embracing the idea and that some have started offering assistance in terms of cattle and food.
Rev Elizabeth Julia Tamale, the head of female laity and also wife to the bishop, explains that upon its successful implementation, the idea will effectively aide their diocesan development plan that targets family groups.
She says she was highly hopeful that the undesirable habits of domestic violence and irresponsible parenting will be no more, since the couples will undergo training before wedding, merged into fellowship groups and regularly monitored.
Ideally, couples intending to marry have been paying certain fees to the Church before they are wedded, in addition to other expenses.
But Bishop Katumba says he had now instructed priests in all the 111 churches across the diocese to begin registering and preparing couples for church-funded weddings in groups of ten.
“We shall be conducting the wedding ceremonies regularly provided there are Christians ready to participate,” he adds.
What the law says
In Uganda, cohabiting does not constitute marriage, despite the number of years a man and a woman have lived together and children they have had.
Government is currently drafting a new law to guide on property sharing between cohabiting couples upon divorce.
The new law was informed by the Marriage and Divorce Bill which has been reviewed, resulting in the deletion of the cohabitation clause from the Bill for separate law.
Tabled in December 2009, the Marriage and Divorce Bill provided for the types of recognised marriages in Uganda, marital rights and duties, recognition of cohabitation in relation to property rights, grounds for breakdown of marriage, and rights of parties on dissolution of marriage.