The Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu-Van Firth, daughter of former Cape Town Archbishop Desmond Tutu has made a “dignified” exit by giving up her Anglican church license as the church does not recognize gay marriage.
Rather than being stripped off her right to practice as a minister, Firth announced that she would give up her priestly position to marry her long-time lover.
She said, “Because the South African Anglican Church does not recognize our marriage, I can no longer exercise my priestly ministry in South Africa. The bishop of the (Cape Town) diocese was instructed to revoke my licence. I decided that I would give it to him rather than have him take it.”
Although gay marriage was legalized in South Africa in 2006, the South African Anglican law on marriage states: “Holy matrimony is the lifelong and exclusive union between one man and one woman.”
Firth’s resignation has drawn attention as modernists in South Africa convene for a provincial meeting to be held in September to advocate for a more flexible approach for gay clergies.
Bishop Raphael Hess, Tutu’s senior in whose diocese her Cape Town base fell, said he was “vexed” by the need for her to renounce her clerical duties but that he hoped it would be short-lived.
Hess said, “The time has come for us to exercise pastoral care, for us to demonstrate a shift that is reflected in the law. We would be able to have Rev Canon Tutu be able to minister.
At the moment she cannot and she has accepted that but we are hoping that there might be a window for us to change it.”
The former Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu was given permission by the Archbishop of Cape Town, the head of the Anglican church in Southern Africa, to give the union a “father’s blessing”.
Desmond Tutu had earlier given his support for gay marriage as he quipped his refusal on going to a “homophobic heaven”.
Firth is divorced with two children and got married to her long-time partner Marceline Van Furth – who is also divorced with children – in her native Netherlands in December.
Firth and Marcelin also held a second ceremony on Sir Richard Branson’s wine farm in Franschhoek earlier this month. It was attended by the Tutus and officiated by Rev Charlotte Bannister-Parker, a priest from Oxford.