WASHINGTON — The first openly gay US Episcopal bishop, whose consecration rocked the worldwide Anglican fellowship, has said he will retire early because death threats and controversy had placed “constant strain” on his family.
Bishop Gene Robinson of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire said he would retire in 2013, when he will be 65.
“The fact is, the last seven years have taken their toll on me, my family and you,” Robinson wrote in a message posted on the diocese website.
“Death threats, and the now-worldwide controversy surrounding your election of me as bishop have been a constant strain, not just on me, but on my beloved husband, Mark, who has faithfully stood with me every minute of the last seven years.”
Robinson was openly gay when he was elected bishop in 2003, but it aroused such passions that he wore a bullet-proof vest to his consecration.
His ordination as bishop — the first of an openly gay priest in any Christian denomination — so divided the church that its General Convention in 2006 called a moratorium on “any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church.”
Then in July 2009, the church voted to end the moratorium even though the issue had opened a widening rift within the broader Anglican church.
Some Episcopal parishes in the United States responded by breaking with the US church and aligning themselves with conservative Anglican bishops in Africa and South America.
The Episcopal Church is a US branch of the Anglican Communion, whose mother church is the Church of England.