By Lisa Vives
The daughter of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu said she was “stunned” by the Church of England when they denied her the right to officiate at her godfather’s funeral because she is married to a woman.
According to the Rev. Mpho Tutu van Furth, an Anglican priest in the Diocese of Washington, DC, the Church barred her from officiating despite her late godfather’s personal wish that she lead the ceremony at his funeral.
Her godfather, Martin Kenyon, died in England on September 15. He was 92.
“You can’t speak a message of welcome and love and live a message of exclusion,” the Rev. Tutu van Furth said. “It’s incredibly sad,” she told BBC News. “It feels like a bureaucratic response with maybe a lack of compassion.”
Martin Kenyon and Desmond Tutu became friends when they were both students at Kings College. Tutu would become a voice for LGBT equality, speaking in a video released by the Free & Equal campaign.
“I cannot keep quiet when people are penalized for something about which they can do nothing,” Tutu declared. “First, when women are excluded just simply and solely because they are women. But more pernicious, more ghastly is the fact that people are penalized, killed, all sorts of ghastly things happen to them simply because of their sexual orientation.
“I oppose such injustice with the same passion that I opposed apartheid.”
Mr. Kenyon, a powerful force in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, was also an early, outspoken critic of the Anglican Communion’s stance on gay rights.
However, its sister Anglican church in the US, The Episcopal Church, does allow clergy to enter into gay marriages.
Marceline Tutu van Furth, a Dutch academic who is married to the Archbishop Tutu’s daughter, said the church told them it accepts priests in same-sex relationships but not if they are married.
The Church of England and the Episcopal Church are tied together in the global Anglican Communion, which represents about 85 million worshipers around the world. The Episcopal Church has taken a stance in favour of acceptance of gay clergy and members, starting with the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, in New Hampshire in 2003.
The Church of England, however, has said that under its religious laws, while it permits same-sex civil partnerships, it does not support same-sex marriage because it would go against its teachings. Gay clergy are expected to remain celibate, and those in same-sex marriages are not permitted to be ordained.
Tutu remarked in 2013: “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.”
He added: “I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level.”
In the end, Tutu was able to fulfil her godfather’s wish as the service was moved from a church and was instead held in her godfather’s garden in Shropshire.