Church of England bars Desmond Tutu’s daughter from leading funeral over same-sex marriage

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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 Kenyonwho died earlier this month at the age of 92, left express wishes for his goddaughter, Reverend Mpho Tutu van Furth, an Anglican priest, to preside over his funeral.

But the request by his family to hold the ceremony at his local church in Shropshire, England was rejected by the Diocese of Hereford because the daughter of the Nobel Peace Prize winner is in a same-sex marriage.

Martin Kenyon was interviewed by CNN after becoming one of the first people to receive the Covid-19 vaccination in December 2020.

In an interview with CNN, Tutu van Furth said that Kenyon’s daughters had planned to hold the funeral in St. Michael and All Angels Church in the village of Wentnor, where he lived.

“His house 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 Church of England’s official position is against it and its ministers cannot perform or bless such ceremonies.

In a statement sent to CNN, the Diocese of Hereford, where the church is based, said: “We recognize that this is a difficult situation. Advice was given in line with the House of Bishops’ current guidance on same-sex marriage.”

Tutu van Furth was ordained in the US Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia in 2004. The Episcopal Church, which, like the Church of England, is part of the Anglican Communion, allows its priests to perform same-sex marriages.

Tutu van Furth said she felt the time had come for the Church of England to move with the times, but added: “The Church is moving at the pace the Church is moving. I don’t know when there will be enough people who are been left to their grief, or when there will be enough people who have suffered enough pain for the church to change. But there will come a moment.”

Instead of leaving the funeral to someone else, Kenyon’s family chose to hold it in a tent in the garden of the vicarage next door.

“The children felt it was more important to honor their father’s wishes regarding his funeral, so we had a beautiful funeral liturgy in a tent in the garden,” Tutu van Furth told CNN.

Kenyon, who was interviewed by CNN back in December 2020 when he became one of the first people in the world to receive the Covid-19 vaccination, had been a close friend of Tutu van Furth’s late father.

Archbishop Tutu, who was ordained in the Church of England in 1960, spent the 1960s and 1970s alternating between 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 the boat from South Africa and when I was born in 1963 my parents asked Martin to be my godfather.

“My mother said that it was Martin who was the person most responsible for my parents ever coming to feel at home in Britain. 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 in the church was branded “homophobic” by her wife, Marceline Tutu van Furth, a professor of pediatric infectious diseases in the Netherlands, where the couple live.

In a open letter to God published on LinkedInshe described herself as an atheist who had received a “very warm welcome in this religious family.”

In the letter, she referred to a quote from her late father-in-law who famously said that he would not worship a homophobic Godadding: “My request to you is: please help the people of the Church of England, who are certainly homophobic, to clear their minds and allow any priest to marry any person they respect and love.”

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