Anglican priest, coming out, Anglican Church, homophobia, gay priest, gay bishops, openly gay bishop, two dads, parents, teachers, religion, joy, acceptance, school staff, strangers, understanding
Kevin: Um, I was an Anglican priest before I was a Bishop, and that’s the way things work in the Anglican Church, Bishops in our church are elected. And um, so I served twenty years in a parish – not all of that out, but I came out during that time. And this also will be a long story, the history of the Anglican Church, and its own homophobia, and its own coming to terms – only twenty-five years ago a priest in our diocese was fired for being in a relationship with another man – a male priest in a relationship with another man. So we’ve been through a turbulent 25 years, we’re in a way, way better place than we were, but the changes come pretty quickly. So, um, when I was elected Bishop, um – Mohan and I have been together for nine years? And I was elected just a year ago, so certainly by the time my name was on the ballot, and in the last parish I served, I mean, obviously everybody knew about our relationship, about our kids and about our family construct, and so my election was somewhat controversial. There were people who objected to me being on the ballot because I’m gay, or openly gay. I mean, my goodness, we’ve probably had hundreds and hundreds of gay bishops in the Church over the last two thousand years, but the fact that I was out, and that we were ought, and we were raising a family together in an unconventional way, and there were certainly some clergy who felt that should disqualify me from being – even being on the ballot. I happen to think that their objections helped me get elected, because there are people in the senate that day who were so outraged by this homophobia that I suspect that I probably got some votes from some people who maybe didn’t even know me that well, but thought, “I’m going to vote for that guy because other people don’t want him to get elected”. Anyway, I was elected and became the first openly gay Bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada, and I was appointed as the area bishop for an area called York-Scarborough, which is downtown, North Toronto, North York, the east end of the city, and Scarborough, so I have kind of the urban part of our diocese – of the diocese of Toronto. And, um so I’ve been in that role for just over a year, I was selected in September 2016, and then consecrated a Bishop just a year ago this month. And, um, so I’ve had twelve months of that, and we’ve had twelve months of adjusting to what that is like. Our kids were very funny because, um, you know, I wore a black shirt for a while, and then I started wearing a purple shirt – and they were at the consecration, obviously, and things like that – but they think it’s kind of funny that I wear different clothes, and I wear a pointy hat now, and a purple shirt. [Laughter] And, uh, so one of the – one of the things about being a pioneer in this way, is that I’m a pioneer at work and face the joys and the challenges of that, but it carries over into our home life, and our kids’ life, and their school life as well. So, um, dropping the kids off and picking them up and parents, teachers, and the school staff seeing us together with our kids, seeing me dressed like this, and you can just tell they are trying to make sense out of this. Especially - especially those who have come from a religious background, like maybe Roman Catholics, or more conservative Anglicans, or Pentecostals, whatever. They identify this [indicating his outfit and cross] with Christianity, and many people identify Christianity with conservatism, and they just can’t compute about how that can be a part of this.
Mohan: As we’re dropping the kids off, or picking them up, you see people looking at us. They see the collar, and they often see us together with the kids, or they know the kids, and they will look at us and you can tell that the wheels are going, they’re trying to figure things out. But, you know, so, as much as that happens, there’s also people trying to understand it. Shortly after Kevin became a Bishop, there was a story Michael Corrin did, it was in the Toronto Star, and then, um, and then the following Monday we were taking the kids to school, and – I wasn’t there but you told me this – he walked in, and immediately as you walk in the school the office, the school office is on the left-hand side, and, um, the entire office, the principal, the vice-principal, the secretary, the admin staff, they all got up and they clapped, and they came out and gave Kevin a big hug. And so although there are people who don’t know, there are people who do. And, um, it was – I got goosebumps, I wasn’t even there, Kevin told me about it after the fact. So there’s that joy, that, um, and openness, and understanding, and acceptance that we’ve received so lovingly by strangers. So, it’s been lovely.
Kevin: I also think that in our – our society is becoming rapidly secularized, and I think in some ways that actually makes it easier for me, which would be – it sounds like a strange thing to say. But I think, the fact that lots of people are not as attached to a particular set of religious convictions in the way they once were. I mean, if I had been an openly gay – well I wouldn’t have been openly gay Bishop fifty years ago, but imagine I was – and then walked into our kids school, I think I’d be faced with lots of scorn, and, like, judgement, because people in those days, held their religious convictions – lots of people held their religious convictions quite closely. And I just don’t think that’s the case anymore. I think in many religious organizations, including in many churches, and certainly in secular society, people are much more open to, um, different and new things, which I think is good. Really good.