S. African foundation suspends Mpho Tutu on 'conflict of interest' grounds after gay wedding

(Photo: REUTERS / Paul Hackett)The former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu dances with his grandson Khalil Morrison, 6, grand daughter Onalina Burris, 7, and daughter Rev. Mpho Tutu (R) after he received the 2013 Templeton Prize at the Guildhall in central London on May 21, 2013. South African anti-apartheid campaigner Desmond Tutu won the 2013 Templeton Prize worth .7 million for helping inspire people around the world by promoting forgiveness and justice, organizers said.

Rev. Canon Mpho Tutu, the daughter of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, has been asked to step aside as the executive director of The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.

The board met last week and decided to look into grounds of a possible conflict of interest between the foundation and Tutu's wife, Professor Marceline van Furth, South Africa's newspaper, The Citizen, reported Feb. 15.

A professor in pediatric infectious diseases, Van Furth also occupies the Desmond Tutu Chair of Medicine at Vrije Universiteit, in the Netherlands

The foundation says on its website it seeks to "harnesses, consolidates, preserves and propagates the values, principles and mission of its founders to contribute sustainably to the creation of a more compassionate world."

The board of the foundation met last week and decided to look into grounds of a possible conflict of interest between the foundation and Tutu's wife, Van Furth.

"Following a preliminary investigation, the board of the Foundation has asked its executive director, the Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu, to step aside, while a process is undertaken to tighten administrative procedures and practices, and mitigate potential for perceived conflicts of interests between the foundation and its partners," foundation spokesperson Don MacRobert said in a Feb. 14 statement.

In February 2013, the Dutch Postcode Lottery donated €2 million ($2.23 million million) to the foundation.

Of that, €1.5 million went to a joint special project by the Vrije Universiteit Medical Center and The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.

Roger Friedman said on behalf of the Desmond Tutu and Leah Legacy Foundation that the decision followed a preliminary investigation and "the outcome of the process would determine Tutu's future" the Cape Argus newspaper reported.


This is not the first controversy regarding the marriage of Mpho Tutu and the Johannesburg newspaper, City Press reporeted Jan 18 that her wedding created "a conundrum" for the Anglican Church,

Church sources said Archbishop Desmond Tutu had not given his public blessing for his daughter's wedding to avoid any impression of forcing the hand of the church, where discussions on the same-sex marriages of both priests and congregants have been ongoing.

City Press said it had reliably learnt that neither Archbishop Tutu nor his wife, Leah, attended their daughter's December wedding in the Netherlands.

The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba declined to be interviewed.

His office said he was constrained as to what he could discuss publicly, as the issue was a pastoral one involving church members, the newspaper said.

The Anglican church in South Africa is officially opposed to its priests entering into same-sex marriages and insists that practicing gay clerics remain celibate. The church is now drafting pastoral guidelines for members entering into same-sex marriages.

British newspapers reported that a December conference of Anglican archbishops, bishops and senior leaders from around the world voted to condemn same-sex marriage.

They also decided to bar the Anglican Communion church in the United States, the Episcopal Church from global church activities because of its accommodating stance on homosexuality.

The Daily Mail reported that the Anglican leaders, who met behind closed doors in the UK's Canterbury Cathedral, decided to explicitly condemn same-sex marriage, saying matrimony should be between "a man and a woman in faithful, long-life union."

The role of the clergy in same-sex marriages has been under legal scrutiny in South Africa.

In November 2015, the country's Constitutional Court declined to hear a discrimination case brought by Ecclesia de Lange against the Methodist Church, on the grounds of her having no reasonable prospects of success.

De Lange challenged her dismissal, meted out after she told her congregation in 2009 that she intended to marry her same-sex partner.

Archbishop Tutu has come out in public support of gay marriage and previously saying he would refuse to go to a "homophobic heaven".

Those close to church affairs told City Press Mpho Tutu's marriage had put the church in a tight spot.

"Mpho is a reverend canon and this has implications for the church. You have to be celibate or unmarried to continue being a [gay] priest in the church. A question is her role in the church as a reverend canon. There is nothing in the church's constitution about whether you can marry," said an insider.

Mpho Tutu has said she was ordained in the Episcopal Church in the United Stats and was "canonically resident" in the Diocese of Washington, DC.

"In terms of the canon, I must have the approval of my diocesan bishop to marry, which I have," she said.

"With regard to the Anglican Church, I imagine it will resolve its position on these matters in due course," said Mpho Tutu, who noted that she was personally not involved in the discussions the Anglican church was having about its priests in same-sex marriages.

She rejected suggestions her marriage did not have her parents' blessing, as they had never made public statements on any of their children's marriages, "so this is not a concern to us".

She told City Press that her aging parents did not attend the ceremony as they were trying to avoid overseas travel. Tutu said her parents would attend an upcoming celebration in Cape Town.

In September 2016 the Anglican church in South Africa is expected to finalize and adopt pastoral guidelines for members who enter into same-sex civil unions.

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