• Mpho Tutu and her wife Professor Marceline Furth share a moment at their home in Cape Town, South Africa. (Getty Images, Gallo Images, Foto24)Source: Getty Images, Gallo Images, Foto24
Mpho Tutu van Furth can no longer practice as a priest, but says she would "always choose love".
Alyssa Braithwaite

10 Jun 2016 - 12:06 PM  UPDATED 10 Jun 2016 - 12:06 PM

Desmond Tutu's daughter, Mpho Tutu van Furth has had to relinquish the Anglican priesthood after marrying the woman she loves.

Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu van Furth married her Dutch long-term girlfriend Marceline van Furth in a small private ceremony in the Netherlands at the end of 2015, but only went public with their relationship in May when they had a wedding celebration at a vineyard in Franschhoek, near Cape Town in South Africa.

Tutu van Furth followed her father into a life in the Anglican church, but had to leave following her same-sex marriage. 

"My marriage sounds like a coming out party," Tutu van Furth told the BBC. "Falling in love with Marceline was as much as a surprise to me as to everyone else." 

While same-sex marriage was legalised in South Africa in 2006, the South African Anglican church does not recognise same-sex marriage.

Shortly after her wedding her diocese decided to withdraw Tutu van Furth's licence to practice as a priest, but she opted to hand it back, as she thought this was more dignified.

"It was incredibly sad for me," says Tutu van Furth, who was previously married to a man with whom she had two children.

"A few years ago I celebrated the Eucharist with my father... and now to be in a position that I cannot serve at the alter with him... I was surprised by how much it hurt."

Her father, the retired archbishop and anti-apartheid campaigner who is now 84, gave a "father's blessing" but was unable to bless the union as a priest and the former archbishop of Cape Town.

He has championed LGBTQIA+ rights and been outspoken on homophobia, equating it with apartheid.

In 2013 he spoke at a UN-backed campaign to promote gay rights and said: "I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry. I mean I would much rather go to the other place."

While the Tutu van Furths recently honeymooned in Bali, their careers and children - they have four between them, ranging in age from 10 to 19 - mean they live 9,600km apart.

Mpho runs her parents' foundation, Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, in Cape Town, and Marceline works as a professor of paediatric infectious diseases in Amsterdam.

"We are newly-weds like every other set of newly-weds and it sucks. Living apart is not a good and joyful thing," Tutu van Furth says.

"It's a huge challenge to us but we talk umpteen times a day. God bless the internet, we love it."

She hopes her wedding will prompt the church to re-examine its stance on same-sex marriage.

"Not only do we have gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual people of every description sitting in our pews, to be perfectly honest we have all of those people standing in our pulpits too," she says.

And while deciding between being a priest or being with the person she loved was one of the hardest decisions she has ever had to make, she has no regrets about her choice.  

"I shouldn't have to choose but in the end you always choose love," Tutu van Furth says. "When in doubt, do the most loving thing."