Toronto bishops issue statement in support of Kevin Robertson and same-sex spouse


Brenda Still

Bishop Kevin Robertson, area bishop of York-Scarborough. Photo: Michael Hudson/diocese of Toronto

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.

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Tali Folkins

Tali Folkins

Tali Folkins has worked as a staff reporter for the Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. His writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail and The United Church Observer.

13 Responses

  1. And this is why (homophobia) I don’t attend the Anglican church any longer. Good luck to a dying church too afraid to truly follow the example of Christ.

  2. I think some people will leave the ACC if it does decide to condone sinful relationships in church, as they did after the decision to bless same-sex relationships. If you’re practicing an immoral way of life, why would you flaunt it at a convention of Christian leaders? Would a married bishop bring his mistress too?

  3. Well, Ian, the history of the church is rife with condoning sinful relationships and changing its mind on moral vs. immoral. Once upon a time (read Hippolytus of Rome, Basil of Caesarea, Martin of Tours, et alia), being in the military was considered incompatible with being a Christian and resignation from it was a prerequisite for baptism. Now the church accepts it without question, sometimes even honors it. Ditto for charging interest on money (a no-no until John Calvin changed that), remarriage after divorce, birth control… Seems the church changes its mind on many a thing over time. A married bishop bringing his mistress is an ad hominem non sequitur… We’re talking about legally married bishops here.

    1. I think it’s great that the Church of England both considers marriage as between a man and a woman, and supports celibate same-sex civil partnerships. Why can’t we have that here?
      And my understanding of both Jesus and Paul’s teaching is that remarriage after divorce is adultery. Why does the Anglican church permit it? Because it’s a hard teaching. And like the Jewish insistence on circumcision, it had to be jettisoned to satisfy a more cosmopolitan world-view. Like the attempts to change the marriage canon.
      Churches change, God not so much. He’s quite a hands-off deity. But he will come in judgement.

  4. I think the reason some churches who chose to believe in Biblical, Orthodox Christianity lost church buildings and land because of Orthodoxophobia. Orthodoxophobia is a growing trend in the U.S., and very alarming.

  5. What I cannot believe in this, my 80th year, is that any God-loving/ respecting individual has not recognized that the Creator created homosexuality with a purpose. That we have as yet – even after all these centuries – to understand why such was created and accepted that such is a gift through Nature, not a perversion or SIN of any kind, should not discourage us from embracing this reality nonetheless. And when in the course of the life of a man or a women so blessed with such an identity, he/she falls in love in the name of his/her faith and is prepared to commit that life THROUGH LOVE to another without reserve, surely the ‘home’/that ‘community’ where he/she celebrates should respond joyfully and in partnership. Really, we are talking about a same-gender union, not a flagrant sexual relationship. Bear in mind so much of the negative reaction to the very idea of a same-sex union is predicated for many on their being uncomfortable with that single word, SEX, perhaps without knowing it. I can only imagine how Jesus would respond to this concept of a same-GENDRE marriage…. WITH UNCONDITIONAL LOVE AND BLESSINGS… Not with anger and prejudice and lack of understanding – that Jesus who was one of the world’s greatest teachers, leaders, and friends.

    1. The bible is a revelation of God to us , the law is a revelation of God character which does not change. That makes it clear that homosexuality is a violation of His character. God established the framework for marriage in Gen.2 which Jesus reconfirmed in the gospels ,marriage is only between a man and a woman . Yes God is a God of Love but His love does not violate His Holiness, ….ever

  6. To say that ‘the God character’ does not change provides the basis for a long discourse given that the God characterized in the Old testament is “Vengence is mine, saith the Lord” while in the new testament He has been tailored as a “God of infinite love”. .. depends on whom you talk to, I guess. And which denomination, as a Baptist Pastor remarked to me just last week: “It’s all in the interpretation, isn’t it?” or that line expressed in a totally unrelated moment in the musical, SOUTH PACIFIC, “You have to be carefully taught”. Recently the invocation to approach the altar to take communion (which I first heard back in 1947 as a choir boy at Christ Church Deer Park in Toronto) has been ringing in my ear: “Ye that do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins and are in love and charity with your neighbour and intend to lead a new life following the Commandments of God and walking from henceforth in His Holy Ways, draw near with faith and take this Holy Sacrament to your comfort, making your humble confession to Almighty God meekly kneeling upon your knees”. I haven’t heard that expressed in years, nor do a lot of people kneel humbly – many cannot (which was finally recognized for its reality among many other aspects of worship). Much has changed as God has opened the minds and hearts of his family bit by bit and as we have evolved step by step through the past two millennia certainly as social ‘animals’ blessed with the gift of active intelligence and awareness of and sensitivity for one another. Wasn’t it Jesus who is reported in The Gospels as saying, “Let him who is free of sin cast the first stone”? Significant. And again, “Do not be guilty of trying to take the splinter out of another’s eye before you remove the beam from your own”. The rebel Jesus, who today on Good Friday, persecuted and vilified, was crucified for being a ‘rebel’ in a society ripped apart by military occupation and a powerful jealous religious leadership, summarized his ministry as the Son of God by saying “Love the Lord Thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength. Further, love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang ALL the laws and the prophets.” We must remember that the Gospel writers themselves were not present as Jesus courageously ‘walked the talk’ of his ministry. It was years later when ‘pen was put to paper’, as it were, from verbal reports of that ministry. Since the discovery of those texts, many men have manipulated the translations to suit the times, the circumstances, and even their own ambition. The meaning of many words has changed appreciably, certainly in English. This is borne out in more contemporary versions of The Bible itself and in the Anglican Book of Alternate Prayer. I have long been a fan of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, particularly of his first line and a half: “Let me not to the marriage of true minds/Admit impediments:..” Today we are at a crossroads where we are being asked to lay down all those words all the thousands of books written interpreting The Biblepresnet for our study, including the Bible itself, and allow the light of true unfettered love to shine through. And I’ll add as the father to a remarkable woman (now 48) who has been married in a same-gender marriage for as long as a Church (the United Church) and the government have sanctioned it. They have given birth to two fine boys – one by each mothe. Those boys are now teenagers. Baptized and confirmed in the Anglican Church, our daughter (with her then partner of a number of years) had to turn elsewhere despite her faith for welcome and support in another jurisdiction where they read the same ‘book’. Further, as a measure of the changes which have occurred, when I married my son’s mother back in 1967, my wife was an immigrant and coloured, such a heterosexual marriage was deemed less than proper. Happily we humankind have come a long way since. However, we obviously still have a long way to go – to be true celebrants of “Love thy neighbour as you love yourself”. Blessings in abundance to all this Eastertide.

    1. Gods standards do not change no matter how much the worlds change . Yes , there were lots of errors done in the past by the church but due to human distortions and biases not the standards set by God. The only perimeters set by God for marriage is that it is only between a man and a woman and that in a Christian marriage that they both be Christian, color and culture are irrelevant.

    2. On these two commands hang all the law and the prophets. Fine. But this doesn’t mean that these are the only two commandments. Jesus said “anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
      With respect, I’d like to know what kind of relationships your grandsons have with their fathers.

  7. Who said?… other than in The Bible as written by men. It can be argued that the word GOD may well be a ‘typo’ – and I’m not being facetious here. God may have been ‘good’ – which ‘God’ in our understanding is the essence of good, not only as celebrated in the Protestant and Catholic faiths, but in other religions as well. Some years ago I saw a poster of Queen Elizabeth’s face – a collage of photos of individual people from the 52 nations of the Commonwealth. You had to look closely to identify the individual people – just as in another poster displaying Shakespeare’s face created by the Stratford Festival. In that one, the photos making up the portrait study were of all the actors who had performed at that Festival over its 40 years (to that point). For me and many others, the face of GOD – read GOOD – is a compilation of all who believe in good and go forward in life together working in HARMONY for the best humanity can be as Life unfolds more and more broadly like a blossom wakening into a new day with its plethora of awaiting fresh and new experiences. Taking that further, then, it is a simple step forward when one truly reflects on the import of same-gender marriage in and through the CHURCH between two loving persons who are already committed to GOD – to GOOD – and seek to share the remainder of their temporal journey together rather than apart, strengthened in a shared love, blessed even before any formal man-conceived ceremony. I was a teacher in Nova Scotia for many years. My colleagues knew of my daughter’s marriage to her wife. One day in the Staff Room while enjoying our recess/coffee break, the male Phys. Ed. teacher asked me – I don’t know why, I didn’t think to ask, I wasn’t concerned or offended by his question, but it seemed right for the moment – “Why do women accept homosexuality much more easily than men?” My immediate response, to my own surprise, was, “Motherhood.” “Motherhood? he responded. “Yes., Think about it. No matter wha a child does, it is the mother who will be standing by the child, defending the rights of that child, long after the father has stepped away.” As we humans have evolved through the centuries, there is much primitive thinking and action we still embrace in our makeup. But meanwhile we have also learned to FEEL more openly as a compliment to that learning which has opened new doors of understanding and which for many is frightening because it is so foreign to having “been carefully taught… ” as mentioned before from SOUTH PACIFIC… at home, in our schools, through our churches and synagogs and mosques, on the playground, out in society, and from our leaders of all stripes. GOD = GOOD gradually guides us, though, when we are open to hear the message, we are open to true acceptance of what may be very different to whom WE have been to then. I love the Indigenous “Seven Grandfathers”, the foundation of our and the world’s First Peoples’ spirituality: LOVE * WISDOM * HUMILITY * RESPECT * TRUST * HONESTY * COURAGE. I dare to add one more word to that in all humbleness – HARMONY. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your GOD who is in Heaven”. Accepting same-gender marriage now at this time in ‘history’ may be a way to show one’s “GOOD WORKS”, when heart and mind embrace in harmony . I believe so. I pray so.

  8. A simple question (after a somewhat heated theological debate): why are spouses, same-sex or not, invited to attend this meeting?. And, more to the point, do we laity pay for it? The Anglican Church often brags about how modern it is; during the recent election of the bishop of Toronto, candidates spoke of the familiarity with “managing” large numbers of people in a business setting. Attend any official church meeting of even the smallest parish, and you will discover that ‘the Hand of God’ is often concealed beneath financial reports and legal opinions.

    Which is all well and good, but it is also a fact that “the free lunch” is no longer part of the modern business model. Even in academia, long notorious for junkets of various types, it is no longer financially feasible for spouses to attend conferences or meetings just for the sake of taking a trip on somebody else’s dime.

    I say this so that I don’t come off as some grumpy old layman throwing copies of the BAS from a back pew. But when I see that the original article on this matter was accompanied, on the front page of the Anglican Journal by an article about soon to be or newly ordained clergy expressing their concern with whether the Church will survive into the future, it struck me as a bit more than ironic.

    In my humble opinion, there won’t be a Church if the tendency of the clergy (including the bishops) is to spend money like the proverbial drunken sailors. Nor do I think I am making a mountain of a mole hill when I consider the costs involved in booking a flight from, say, Vancouver to London, England, plus the costs of meals and board. It seems a bit much to then ask a parish (or diocese) made up of largely the elderly to foot the bill.

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