The same-sex spouse of Kevin Robertson, area bishop of York-Scarborough in the diocese of Toronto, will go to England at the time of the Lambeth Conference in 2020, though it’s as yet unclear to what extent any of the spouses of Toronto bishops will participate, the diocese’s College of Bishops said in a joint statement released March 25.
“All of our spouses, including Mohan [Sharma], will be going to England in 2020 in the spirit of mutual support and love,” the statement by the five-member group of bishops reads. “The degree to which each will participate in the conference is yet to be determined.”
The Lambeth Conference gathers Anglican bishops from across the world every 10 years. Preparations for next year’s conference have been attracting international media attention since the secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, announced in a blog post that, because of the Communion’s position that marriage is a lifelong union of a man and a woman, same-sex spouses would not be invited.
Robertson, who was married to Mohan Sharma Dec. 28, 2018, in the diocese’s Cathedral Church of St. James, told a U.K. newspaper he thought homophobia was behind the decision. The spouses of bishops who had been divorced and remarried, he said, had been invited despite the Communion’s position on marriage being a lifelong union.
In their statement, the Toronto bishops called the decision not to invite same-sex spouses to the conference “troubling.”
“While we recognize that the issues involved in a decision of this nature are many-faceted, we wish to express our dismay and sadness at the pain that this causes all of us within the College of Bishops, but in particular Bishop Kevin and Mohan as our friends and co-labourers in the gospel,” the bishops said.
The bishops also said they expected the matter would be discussed at the meeting of the Anglican Church of Canada’s House of Bishops, which is meeting this week. They added that they “are united and stand in solidarity as sister and brother bishops in care and love for Bishop Kevin and Mohan,” and that they would all accept the invitation to attend Lambeth.
Meanwhile, the University of Kent, which is hosting the conference, said it had “received a large number of concerns raised by staff, students and members of the public” about the exclusion of same-sex spouses at the conference. In a joint statement, the university’s vice-chancellor and chair of council said the decision was “contrary to the values” of the University of Kent and that they hoped to meet with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and other organizers to discuss the issue.