The Church of England has barred Desmond Tutu’s daughter from leading a funeral because she is married to a woman.
Mpho Tutu van Furth, an Anglican priest in the Diocese of Washington DC, was asked to officiate at her late godfather, Martin Kenyon’s funeral in Shropshire on Thursday.
According to Ms Tutu van Furth, it “seemed really churlish and hurtful.”
The Diocese of Hereford described the situation as “difficult.”
Because its official teaching is that marriage is only between one man and one woman, the Church of England does not allow its clergy to be in a same-sex marriage.
However, its sister Anglican church in the United States, The Episcopal Church, allows clergy to marry gay people.
“Advice was given in accordance with the House of Bishops’ current guidance on same-sex marriage,” the Diocese of Hereford said in a statement.
Former Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Reverend Paul Bayes, a campaigner for the church to change its position on sexuality, stated that “pleading that things are difficult is not good enough.”
“We urgently need to create space for conscience, pastoral care, and love,” he said.
Mr Kenyon’s family moved the funeral service from St Michael and All Angels in Wentnor, near Bishops Castle, to a marquee in the vicarage next door so Ms Tutu van Furth could officiate and preach.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Ms Tutu van Furth told BBC News. “It appears to be a bureaucratic response with possibly a lack of compassion.” It appeared churlish and hurtful. But, as sad as that was, there was joy in celebrating someone who could open the door to people who are sometimes excluded.”
Martin Kenyon, then 91, became an internet sensation in December 2020 after giving candid answers to CNN after receiving the Covid-19 vaccine.
When asked how it felt to be one of the world’s first to receive the vaccine, he replied, “I don’t think I feel much at all.” But he added that he hoped he wouldn’t get the “bug” now that he had granddaughters.
“Is there any point in dying when I’ve lived this long?” he asked.
Mr Kenyon knew the late South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu well.
After marrying Marceline van Furth, a Dutch academic, in 2015, Ms Tutu van Furth was forced to give up her right to officiate as a priest in South Africa.
Desmond Tutu, who died in December 2021, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his work against apartheid in South Africa. He also advocated for gay rights and supported same-sex marriage.
“I wouldn’t go to a homophobic heaven.” No, I’d say sorry, but I’d much rather go somewhere else,” he said in 2013.
“I would not worship a homophobic God, that is how strongly I feel about this.”
“I am as passionate about this campaign as I was about apartheid,” he added. It’s on the same level for me.”
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