Tutu Legacy Foundation Dismayed at the Callous Position of the Church of England

For Immediate Release

23 September 2022 – Cape Town

It is with deep dismay that the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation learned of the callous treatment of Mpho Tutu-van Furth over the last week. Through the decision to disallow Mpho Tutu-Van Furth from presiding over the funeral of her godfather, Martin Kenyon, the Church has again taken a position that undermines the safety, dignity, and value of members of the LGBTQIA community, and all human beings.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was an extraordinary supporter of gay rights – from his support of one of the earliest fighters for gay rights in South Africa, Simon Nkoli, to his advocacy for the inclusion of sexual orientation in South Africa’s Bill of Rights. The Arch maintained his own outspoken activism within the Anglican church and expressed his distress and the pain he felt towards the church on their removal of his daughter’s license as a priest because of her decision to marry the human being she loved.

One of the great struggles of members of the LGBTQIA community is that it is within the most intimate parts of their lives that their humanity is often most policed— in their families and their religious communities, in marriage, in parenthood, and in death. Rather than upholding the ‘Golden Rule’ which is so central to all religions – that  we treat each other as we wish to be treated; or the values of ubuntu – that our humanity is tied up in one another, that a harm to one is a harm to all – many religious communities continue practices that exclude, humiliate, diminish, and hurt people for who they are and who they love.

While there are degrees to which this homophobia and discrimination is meted out, any curtailing of the dignity of people must be vociferously challenged. The Arch was an icon for the struggle against all forms of oppression. His belief was that our humanity is bound up in each other; and as such the struggle for freedom cannot be divided between groups. Freedom on the basis of race is as important as freedoms based on gender, sexual orientation, geography, or belief.

In the foreword for Sex, Love and Homophobia: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Lives published by Amnesty International (2004) the Arch noted, “For me this struggle is a seamless rope. Opposing apartheid was a matter of justice. Opposing discrimination against women is a matter of justice. Opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a matter of justice. It is also a matter of love. Every human being is precious…we cannot answer hate with hate.”

As the Tutu Legacy Foundation, we will continue to speak out as the Arch would have done against any positions that undermine the value and dignity of all people. This is why we commented earlier this year on the Muslim Judicial Council’s Fatwa against homosexuality; and why we cannot keep silent in the face of the Church of England’s bigoted position that people in loving same-sex marriages cannot fulfill their professional, and sacrosanct, duties. These positions undermine the flourishing of our human societies and should be urgently and powerful challenged by all those who believe.