The daughter of the late Desmond Tutu has reportedly been barred from leading her godfather’s funeral by the Church of England because she is married to a woman.
Mpho Toto Van Furth, a practicing Anglican priest in the United States, was asked to preside over the funeral of the late Martin Kenyon on Thursday in Shropshire.
The Diocese of Hereford said in a statement carried by the BBC: “Advice has been given in line with the current guidance of the Bishops’ Conference on same-sex marriage.”
Reportedly, Ms Toto van Voorth told the broadcaster that the decision “seemed really awful and hurtful”, and the diocese described it as a “difficult situation”.
The Church of England does not allow same-sex marriage of clergy, but the Episcopal Church in the United States – of which Mrs. Toto Van Voor is a part – does.
Her license to work as a priest in South Africa was revoked when she revealed her sexual orientation and married Marceline van Wurth, a Dutch academic, in 2015.
When the Kenyon family found out that Lady Toto van Voorth had been barred, they moved the service from St Michael and all the angels at Wentnor, south of Shrewsbury near the England-Wales border.
The funeral was moved to a marquee at the rectory next door so that the daughter could take over her duties.
Ms Toto van Voorth told the BBC: “It’s very sad. It sounds like a bureaucratic response with perhaps a lack of empathy.
“It seemed really crude and painful. But as sad as it was, there was joy in the celebration of someone who could open the door to people who are sometimes left out.”
Desmond Tutu, who died in December 2021, won the Nobel Peace Prize in the 1980s for his work addressing apartheid in South Africa.
He also advocated for gay rights and campaigned for same-sex marriage.
In 2013, he said, “I would refuse to go to an anti-gay paradise. No, I’d say sorry, I mean I’d rather go somewhere else.”
“I won’t worship a gay-hating God, and that’s how deeply I feel about this…I’m as excited about this campaign as I’ve ever been about apartheid. To me, it’s on the same level.”