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

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Martin Kenyon, who died earlier this month at the age of 92, has left express wishes for his great-grandaughter, Reverend Mpho Tutu van Furth, an Anglican priest, to conduct his funeral.

But his family’s request to hold the ceremony at his local church in Shropshire, England was turned down by the Diocese of Hereford. Because the daughter of a Nobel Peace Prize laureate is married to the same sex.

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

“His house was in Shropshire next door and he was a member of that parish for 30 years,” she said of her godfather.

Same-sex weddings became legal in England and Wales in 2014, but the Church of England’s official position is against them and its ministers cannot conduct or bless such ceremonies.

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

Toto Van Furth was ordained at the American Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia in 2004. The Episcopal Church, like the Church of England, is part of the Anglican denomination, allowing clergy to enter into same-sex marriage.

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Toto van Furth said she felt it was time for the Church of England to move with the times, but added: “The Church is moving as fast as the Church. I don’t know when there will be enough people who have been abandoned to their grief or when there will be enough. of people who have been through enough pain to change the church. But there will be a moment.”

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Rather than assigning someone else to service the funeral, the Kenyon family chose to hold it in a marquee in the adjacent priest’s garden.

“The children felt it was so important to respect their father’s wish regarding his funeral, and so we had a beautiful funeral service in a marquee in the garden,” Toto van Voorth told CNN.

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

Ordained in the Anglican Church in 1960, Archbishop Tutu spent the 1960s and 1970s alternating between his native South Africa and London. Then he met Kenyon for the first time.

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Toto Van Furth told CNN: “My father arrived in London in 1962. My father arrived before my mother, father and Martin were friends. Martin met my mother on the boat from South Africa and when I was born in 1963 my father asked Martin to be my godfather.”

“My mother said Martin was the person most responsible for my parents’ feeling at home in the UK. His personal claim was that he fed me my first meal – a teaspoon of champagne!”

His wife, Marceline Toto van Voorth, a professor of pediatric infectious diseases in the Netherlands, where the couple live, described the decision to ban Toto van Voorth from holding the ceremony in the church as “homophobic”.

In an open letter to God posted on LinkedIn, she described herself as an atheist who received a “very warm welcome in this devout family”.
In the letter, she referenced a quote from her late husband’s father, who famously said he would not worship a homophobic god, and added: “My request to you is: Please help the people of the Church of England who are surely homophobic to clear their minds and allow any clergyman to marry any Someone he respects and loves.”

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