The Church of England has banned Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s daughter from conducting her godfather’s funeral because she is married to a woman.
Martin Kenyon, who died earlier this month at the age of 92, left an express wish that his goddaughter, Reverend Mpho Tutu van Furth, an Anglican priest, would conduct his funeral.
But his family’s request to hold the ceremony at his local church in Shropshire, England, was turned down by the Diocese of Hereford. because the daughter of the Nobel Peace Prize winner is a same-sex marriage.
In an interview with CNN, Tutu van Furth said Kenyon’s daughters planned to hold the funeral at St. Michael and All Angels Church in the village of Wentnor, where he lived.
“His home in Shropshire was next door and he had been a member of that parish for 30 years,” she said of her godfather.
Same-sex marriages were made legal in England and Wales in 2014, but the official position of the Church of England is against this and its ministers cannot perform or bless such ceremonies.
In a statement to CNN, the Hereford Diocese, which houses the church, said: “We recognize that this is a difficult situation. Advice was given in accordance with current House of Bishops guidelines on same-sex marriage.”
Tutu van Furth was ordained in 2004 at the American Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia. The Episcopal Church, which like the Church of England is part of the Anglican Communion, allows its clergy to engage in same-sex marriage.Read:Canada to remove final Covid-19 travel restrictions
Tutu van Furth said she felt the time had come for the Church of England to move with the times, but added: “The church moves at the pace the church moves. I don’t know when there will be enough people who are at the mercy of their grief or when there will be enough people who have suffered enough pain for the Church to change. But there will come a time.”
Rather than entrust the funeral service to someone else, Kenyon’s family chose to hold it in a marquee in the rectory yard next door.
“The children felt it was more important to honor their father’s wishes regarding his funeral and so we had a beautiful funeral liturgy in a marquee in the garden,” Tutu van Furth told CNN.
Kenyon, who was interviewed by CNN in December 2020 when he became one of the first people in the world to receive the Covid-19 vaccination, was a close friend of Tutu van Furth’s late father.Read:5 things to know for Sept. 27: Hurricane Ian, Japan, Trump, Student loans, Ukraine
Ordained in the Anglican Church in 1960, Archbishop Tutu spent the 1960s and 1970s alternately in his native South Africa and London. It was then that he first met Kenyon.
Tutu van Furth told CNN: “My parents arrived in London in 1962. My father arrived before my mother and my father and Martin became friends. Martin met my mother from South Africa by boat and when I was born in 1963 my parents asked Martin to be my godfather.
“My mum said Martin was the person most responsible for ever making my parents feel at home in the UK. His personal claim was that he gave me my first meal – a teaspoon of champagne!’
The decision to prevent Tutu van Furth from holding the ceremony at the church was labeled ‘homophobic’ by her wife, Marceline Tutu van Furth, professor of childhood infectious diseases in the Netherlands, where the couple lives.
In an open letter to God published on LinkedIn, she described herself as an atheist who “had received a very warm welcome in this religious family.”
In the letter, she referenced a quote from her late father-in-law, who famously said he would not worship a homophobic God, adding: “My request to you is: Please help the people of the Church of England who are absolutely homophobic to to empty their minds and let each spiritual person marry a person they respect and love.”