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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 12, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 46
First openly Gay Episcopal Bishop to retire
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First openly Gay Episcopal Bishop to retire

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Bishop V. Gene Robinson, whose consecration as the first openly Gay bishop in the Episcopal Church set off a rift in the global Anglican Communion, announced to his New Hampshire diocese on Saturday that he intended to step down.

His reason for departing? Being the center of an international uproar has taken its toll on him and the diocese.

'Death threats, and the now worldwide controversy surrounding your election of me as a bishop, have been a constant strain, not just on me, but on my beloved husband Mark, and on Episcopalians in the state,' said Robinson to his diocese.

Robinson has led a relatively stable and healthy diocese, and at age 63, is nowhere near the mandatory retirement age for Episcopal bishops, which is 72. But those who know him say he has no intention of retiring from public life. His status as a symbol in the international Gay rights movement means that after he steps down, he will have no shortage of platforms from which to preach his message that God blesses Gay relationships, too.

Robinson, who sees himself as an evangelist to people alienated from Christianity, is a national figure. In 2009, he gave the invocation for the opening event of the inauguration of President Obama.

But it was the election of Bishop Robinson in a church in Concord, New Hampshire, in 2003 that propelled him into the international spotlight. Since 2003, the leaders of the Anglican Communion - affiliated with the Church of England in more than 160 countries - have labored to save it from near schism, not just over homosexuality, but also over female bishops and priests.

Bishop Robinson won critics over with a leadership style that was decisive. Still, the pressure on Robinson became apparent in 2006. He took a month-long leave to be treated for alcoholism.

He and his partner of more than 20 years had a civil union ceremony in New Hampshire in 2008.

Robinson is no longer the only openly Gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. Bishop Mary D. Glasspool was consecrated in Los Angeles, California, earlier this year.

In his resignation speech in New Hampshire, Bishop Robinson said, 'This is the one place on earth where I am not 'the Gay bishop.' I believe that you elected me because you believed me to be the right person to lead you at this time. The world has sometimes questioned that, but I hope you never did.'

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