The Anglican Church of South Africa has expelled Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu Van-Furth, daughter of the world’s most celebrated clerical leader, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, following her marriage to her Dutch female partner in January of this year.
In a statement, Bishop Mpho Tutu said the decision to remove her from priesthood was communicated to her by the Bishop of Saldanha Bay, Thabo Makgoba, who she said was instructed by the clergy to revoke her license.
“After my marriage, the Bishop of Saldanha Bay was advised that he must revoke my license. I offered to return my license rather than require that he take it from me,” Mpho Tutu said.
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The embattled Bishop further noted that her father, the retired archbishop and famous South African anti-apartheid crusader, Desmond Tutu, was sad but not surprised at the news.
Tutu, a Nobel Peace prize winner in 1984, has publicly supported same-sex marriages and has been vocal in campaigning against homophobia. He was once reported to have compared Uganda’s anti-gay law with Hitler’s totalitarianism.
Church’s Stance on LGBT
Despite the significant legal strides that South Africa has made regarding the issue of LGBT rights, homosexuality is still a highly emotional topic in the country, with the Anglican Church still adamant that holy matrimony is the lifelong and exclusive union between one man and one woman.
While the South African Anglican Church remains divided on the issue of LGBT, the archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba has frequently called for sobriety among the clerics, saying the church can deal with the issue of homosexuality the same way it overcame disputes over ordination of women.
The international Anglican Communion is currently under the spotlight for imposing de facto sanctions on the US Episcopal Church for allowing its clerics to perform same-sex marriages.
Immediately after apartheid, South Africa created a constitution that sought to outlaw different forms of discrimination including homosexuality. It was the first constitution in Africa to criminalize discrimination on the basis of sexuality.
Then, in 2006, South Africa passed a law that allows same-sex marriages. Despite these advances, the LGBT community in South Africa continues to face numerous challenges, including homophobia and high rates of sexually transmitted infections. Cases of “Corrective Rape” are still being reported in South Africa, where lesbians are raped by gangs with the intent of “curing” them of their homosexuality. These pressures have led to higher rates of suicide among LGBT South Africans – especially youth – than in the general population.