The Church of England has banned Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s daughter from attending her godfather’s funeral because he is married to a woman.
Martin Kenyon, who died earlier this month aged 92, left explicit wishes for his funeral to be conducted by Reverend Mpho Tutu van Furth, an Anglican priest.
But his family’s request to hold the ceremony at their local church in Shropshire, England, was refused by the Diocese of Hereford. Because the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s daughter is in 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 Wentnor, where he lived.
“His home in Shropshire was nearby and he had been a member of that parish for 30 years,” she said of her godfather.
Same-sex marriages were legalized in England and Wales in 2014, but the Church of England’s official position is to the contrary 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. The advice was given in accordance with the current House of Bishops guidelines on same-sex marriage.
Tutu van Furth was ordained in the Episcopal Church of the United States in Alexandria, Virginia in 2004. Like the Church of England, the Episcopal Church, which is part of the Anglican Communion, allows its clergy to perform same-sex marriages.
Tutu van Furth said he 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 left in their grief or when there will be enough hurt to change the Church. But there will be a moment.”
Rather than entrust the funeral service to someone else, Kenyon’s family decided to hold it in a tent in the garden of the adjacent vicarage.
“The children thought it was more important to fulfill their father’s wishes for his funeral and so we had a beautiful funeral liturgy in a tent in the garden,” Tutu van Furth told CNN.
Kenyon, who was interviewed by CNN in December 2020 when he was one of the first people in the world to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, was a close friend of Tutu van Furth’s late father.
Archbishop Tutu, who was ordained in the Anglican Church in 1960, spent the 1960s and 1970s alternating between his native South Africa and London. That’s when 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 ship in South Africa and when I was born in 1963 my parents made Martin my godfather. they asked him.
“My mother said that Martin was most responsible for making my parents feel at home in the UK. It was his personal claim that he gave me my first meal: a teaspoon of champagne!
Tutu van Furth’s decision to prevent the ceremony at the church was described as “homophobic” by his wife, Marceline Tutu van Furth, a professor of pediatric infectious diseases in Holland, where the couple live.
In an open letter to God posted on LinkedIn, he described himself as an atheist who received “a very warm welcome in this religious family.”
In the letter, he quoted a quote from his father-in-law, who said he would not worship a homophobic God, and added: “Your request is: please help the people of the Church of England once and for all to clear their minds and allow any clergyman to marry any person who respects and loves them.” to give a chance”.