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The Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu-Van Furth surrenders license to minister

The Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu-Van Furth surrenders license to minister

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Mpho Tutu-Van Furth has surrendered her license to exercise her priestly ministry in South Africa rather than have it rescinded as a result of her marriage to a woman last December.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 Washington Post reports,

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


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Paul Woodrum

Fr. Enoch, there are two myths of creation in Genesis. Humans, male and female together, are the last to be created according to chapter one. Chapter two, however, places man second in the order, right after the creation of water. Woman comes later after all other living creatures have been created. This leaves us with two starting points for a discourse, but not this one. Neither sheds much light on the various social constructs different societies call marriage that, in the West, until roughly the 10th century, was a civil matter affecting only the propertied classes. I think one can seriously ask whether or not African marriage customs need to conform to Western marriage customs in order to be labeled Christian, but doubt whether the Bible alone can answer what is essentially a social question.

Fr Enoch Opuka

That should be the way forward. Social issues should be left for individual societies to address. It is for this reason that being gay or straight should be left for individual societies. Rev’d Mpho should therefore be allowed to practice in TEC USA while the Anglican church in South Africa should be respected for making the decision to withdraw Rev’d Mpho’s license. Our history in Africa is full of sad tales of imposition of strange practices by the west. I know that when anglican missionaries came to my country they banned the playing of drums in church because it was devilish. It had to be piano, organ or none. Of course now we enjoy our drums when worshipping.

Fr Enoch Opuka

Cynthia, I agree that the creation did not take our human six days. For one day to God may be a thousand years. For this reason, it is possible that world would have been created in billions of years. However in all this the last to be created were human beings. The story of creation of the first human begins should then be the beginning of our discourse.
During my sojourn as a missionary in one of the African countries I had to stop two of my catechists from practicing after they had taken second wives because the clan had told them to get second wives to get male children. For them it was not sin. What do I tell them. What is the view of the Western Church in this?

Cynthia Katsarelis

Plural marriage is certainly represented in the Bible. We don’t subscribe to it today in the West, of course. It is from a time and cultures that are highly patriarchal, where women are treated like chattel, rather than equals created equally in the Image of God. Modern science tells us that plural marriage tends to be highly abusive of women and girls – generally they are taken into marriage long before reaching an age of consent, and consent is hardly relevant. Thus these “marriages” tend to resemble slavery.

Theologically, Paul grudgingly approves of marriage for those who can’t manage celibacy. It is a rationale that can just as easily work for same sex marriages as straight ones.

Our current concept of marriage is very recent. Marrying for love was a 19th Century phenomenon. But since we are people of faith, we speak in terms of marriage as a sacrament, an outward and visible sign of God’s inward, invisible Grace. We also speak of it as a covenant, between two people who pledge to be faithful, as God is faithful to us. This is beautiful; it is fundamental to my marriage, it deepens my faith and well-being – but this is not what marriage was in Biblical times. The Bible, and Jesus, address divorce but not marriage as we understand it now, gay or straight.

In this I’m grateful for the Anglican use of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. I’m also grateful that we believe in continuing revelation. I was raised in the Greek Orthodox church where it was believed that revelation stopped long ago.

We’re Christians, we follow Christ. Jesus always included the outcast. His harshest words were for religious leaders who used the Law to exclude and demean people. The story of the New Testament is that of increasing inclusion, eunuchs, Gentiles, etc.

I do believe the Scripture is deeply revealing. I just believe that the revelation continues.


Paul Woodrum

Strange how many exceptions there are, even in the Bible, “to what God ordaineth.” The Hebrews practiced polygamy. Monogamy was a pagan, Roman custom adopted by Christianity that also had rites for the marriage of male couples, e.g., Saints Sergius and Bacchus. Jesus laid down no definitive rules about marriage. Paul’s opinion that marriage was better than burning with lust reads more like condemnation than commendation. Isn’t it time to stop blessing or blaming God and recognize that marriage is a very human social structure for defining legitimacy and inheritance and property rights that we then seek to justify by asking God’s blessing on it?

Fr Enoch Opuka

What can we learn from the creation of Adam and Eve?

Cynthia Katsarelis

We learn that male and female are made in God’s image. And all of Creation is God’s, including God’s gay children.

The fundamentalist view doesn’t hold. The Creation Story is beautiful and tells what I believe is a metaphorical truth – the earth in all its diversity is God’s Creation and God said it was good. However, the world was not created in 6 days 5,000 or 6,000 thousand years ago. It developed over billions of years.

The story that is most relevant to us is the story of Jesus.

Fr Enoch Opuka

How I wish that respected theologians would meet and deliberate on the issue of gay marriage. The way the council of Nicea came up with the creed. How I wish they would expound on the Bible and tell us in a convincing sober way what God says about marriage. They should also expound on polygamy that is practiced by many Africans. Would ECUSA allow a practicing African polygamist to be a priest. Would they consider permitting a liturgy for the marriage of a second wife.

David Allen

Would ECUSA allow a practicing African polygamist to be a priest. Would they consider permitting a liturgy for the marriage of a second wife.

I’m sure that it would not.

Fr Enoch Opuka


Susannah Clark

May God bless both these ladies.

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