Desmond Tutu’s daughter ‘banned’ from Church of England funeral because of marriage to woman

The daughter of the late Desmond Tutu has reportedly been prohibited from leading her godfather’s funeral by the Church of England because she is married to a woman.

Mpho Tutu van Furth, who is a practicing Anglican priest in the US, had been asked to officiate the funeral of the late Martin Kenyon on Thursday in Shropshire.

In a statement carried by the BBC, the Diocese of Hereford said: “Advice was given in line with the House of Bishops current guidance on same-sex marriage.”

Ms Tutu van Furth reportedly told the broadcaster the decision “seemed really churlish and hurtful”, and the diocese described it as “a difficult situation”.

The Church of England does not allow same-sex marriage in its clergy, but The Episcopal Church in the US – of which Ms Tutu van Furth is a part – does.

She had her licence to officiate as a priest rescinded in South Africa when she revealed her sexuality and married Marceline van Furth, a Dutch academic, in 2015.

When the Kenyon family discovered Ms Tutu van Furth had been barred, they moved the service from St Michael and All Angels in Wentnor, just south of Shrewsbury near the England-Wales border. 

The funeral was moved to a marquee in a neighbouring vicarage so that the goddaughter could officiate. 

Ms Tutu van Furth told the BBC: “It’s incredibly sad. It feels like a bureaucratic response with maybe a lack of compassion.

“It seemed really churlish and hurtful. But as sad as that was, there was the joy of having a celebration of a person who could throw open the door to people who are sometimes excluded.”

Desmond Tutu, who died in December 2021, won the Nobel Peace Prize in the 1980s for his work tackling apartheid in South Africa. 

He also championed gay rights and campaigned for same-sex marriage. 

In 2013, he said: “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place.

“I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this… I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level.”

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