Church Bars Tutu's Daughter From Leading Funeral

The Rev. Mpho Tutu van Furth is in a same-sex marriage, prohibited by Church of England
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 23, 2022 4:10 PM CDT
Church Bars Tutu's Daughter From Leading Funeral
This image provided by Oryx Media shows the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu in front with his wife, Leah Tutu. Mpho Tutu-Van Furth is in the second row at right.   (Benny Gool/Oryx Media via AP)

The Rev. Mpho Tutu van Furth, daughter of the late Desmond Tutu, is an Anglican priest, which would seem to qualify her to officiate over a church funeral. But she's married to a woman, which the Church of England does not sanction. So Furth was told by her church she could not lead the funeral of her godfather, Martin Kenyon, on Thursday in England, the BBC reports. That's despite the fact the Anglican diocese in which Furth is a priest is the Episcopal Church's in Washington, DC, which allows clergy to be in a same-sex marriage. The Episcopal Church is a member of the Anglican Communion. The decision "seemed really churlish and hurtful," Furth told BBC News.

The Diocese of Hereford called the issue "a difficult situation" and said it followed the bishops' advice. To "plead that things are difficult is not good enough," said a former bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes, who works to change the Church of England's policies on sexuality. "We urgently need to make space for conscience, space for pastoral care, and space for love," he said. Furth said she was stunned. "You can't speak a message of welcome and love and live a message of exclusion," she told the New York Times. The service was moved to the garden of Kenyon's home.

Kenyon, who had asked that Furth lead his funeral, and Archbishop Tutu had become friends in London in the 1960s. Kenyon was in the news in 2020 at age 91 when he became one of the first people in Britain to receive a dose of coronavirus vaccine, telling the Times he looked forward to hugs from his grandchildren. In 2013, Tutu had likened the struggle for gay rights to the fight against apartheid in South Africa. "I would not worship a God who is homophobic," he said, "and that is how deeply I feel about this." (Read more Church of England stories.)

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