The Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu-Van Furth has surrendered her license to exercise her priestly ministry in South Africa rather than have it rescinded as a result of her marriage to a woman last December.
Tutu-Van Furth, who is the daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, told City Press, a South African news outlet,
“Because the South African Anglican Church does not recognise our marriage, I can no longer exercise my priestly ministry in South Africa,” she said. “The bishop of the Diocese of Saldanha Bay [Bishop Raphael Hess] was instructed to revoke my licence.
“I decided that I would give it to him rather than have him take it, a slightly more dignified option with the same effect.”
In an email to the paper, Tutu-Van Furth expanded,
“My wife and I meet across almost every dimension of difference. Some of our differences are obvious; she is tall and white, I am black and vertically challenged. Some of our differences are not apparent at a glance; she is Dutch and an atheist, I am South African and a priest in the Episcopal/Anglican Church.
“Ironically, coming from a past where difference was the instrument of division, it is our sameness that is now the cause of distress. My wife and I are both women,” she said.
She contrasted her marriage to her wife, Marceline, with the unequal power dynamics at play in many traditional South African marriages, saying, “Our marriage is for our mutual joy and support. We have decided to forgo the violence and infidelity.”.
Tutu-Van Furth’s much-celebrated father, retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu, offered a “father’s blessing” at his daughter’s wedding last December, telling City Press,
“Archbishop Thabo permitted me to give the couple a father’s blessing, which we hoped would not be misconstrued as pre-empting decisions of the Provincial Synod, the church’s highest legislative structure,” he said.
The South African Anglican church will decide in the coming year whether to change its stance. South Africa legalized same-sex marriage in 2006, making it the first country to do so in Africa. Thabo Makgoba, the current archbishop of Cape Town — the role which Tutu-Van Furth’s father held — has spoken about his church’s refusal to accept priests from the LGBT community as a problem of discrimination to overcome, similar to anointing blacks or women in the past.
Tutu-Van Furth remains a priest in good standing in the Episcopal Church in the US, where she was ordained to the priestly order in 2004, with her father presiding.
Featured image: Marceline and Mpho Tutu-Van Furth are married by Reverend Charlotte Bannister-Parker. Picture: Sumaya Hisham, via City Press