Shropshire Star

Church bans Desmond Tutu's daughter from taking Shropshire funeral due to same-sex marriage

The daughter of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been banned from officiating at a church funeral in Shropshire, because she is married to a woman.

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Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Instead the family of Martin Kenyon will be holding the 'service' in the back garden of his country home in the south of the county.

The former army officer split his life between London and the county and his family had been hoping to hold his funeral in St Michael and All Angels at Wentnor, near Bishop's Castle.

But his wish to see priest Mpho Tutu - daughter of his close friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his own god-daughter - conduct it in the church has been denied by the Church of England because she is in a same-sex marriage.

Instead she will be present along with family, friends and villagers in the garden of the home Martin and loved, despite a life spent travelling.

Mr Kenyon was friends with Desmond Tutu for 60 years after he looked after the South African archbishop when he arrived in London in the early 1960s to study.

The ruling has caused repercussions though, with Mpho's wife of over six years Tutu Van Fruth writing a 'Letter to God' to speak up for her wife which was published in South African newspaper Independent On Line.

In it she said she said she couldn't believe it when her wife told her she would not be allowed to be present in church as a priest during the funeral of Martin.

She said: "I couldn't believe my ears. Our same-sex marriage is again a reason to hurt people for no reason.

"Martin’s daughters, grandchildren, friends, the Tutu family, and also my wife, Mpho, who are all mourning because of the death of their beloved Martin are being punished because she fell in love with me and dared to marry me

"I feel it is my time to speak up for my wife."

Martin Kenyon at his home in Shropshire

She said the Church of England should allow any clergy person to marry any person they respect and love.

Mr Kenyon's daughter, Nina, said the ruling had also caused some ill-feeling in the village and they had to hastily change the arrangements to use the house, but they were determined the day wouldn't be spoilt.

She said: "It is going to be a celebration of his wonderful and full life and although he travelled a lot, met the Queen, Archbishop Tutu, Martin Luther King and many other people, he always called his home in Shropshire 'God's country' and was never happier than when he was here.

"He opened his doors to the villagers each summer and always enjoyed showing them round the house and sharing good times and friendship - in some ways it will be good that they can all come and pay their respects to him.

"We have the church organist playing an electric piano, we have put a marquee up at short notice and everyone has rallied round from caterers to musicians to the villagers.

"My thoughts on the ruling on Mpho and others of same-sex marriages are that it is outdated and needs to be updated but my father was insistent that she was one of the priests at the service and doing it this way means she still will be."

Mr Kenyon was interviewed on CNN in December 2020 outside Guy's Hospital where he had gone for a Covid jab and told the American reporter he'd turned up at the hospital but "couldn't damn well find anywhere to park my car so was late".

The clip went viral and he was interviewed on Good Morning Britain the next day, when he asked Piers Morgan: 'Who are You?'

Mr Kenyon will be cremated at a small family gathering later with a memorial service to be held in London in November.

In a statement the Diocese of Hereford said: “We acknowledge this is a difficult situation. Advice was given in line with the House of Bishops current guidance on same-sex marriage.”

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