The first openly gay Episcopal bishop, whose consecration instigated a global religious controversy, announced today that he would take early retirement, citing stress from the experience.
Bishop V. Gene Robinson will be 65 when he steps down in January 2013, seven years below the mandatory retirement age for Episcopal bishops.
Robinson announced his plans at the annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire in Concord. He said he gave the two-year transition to give the diocese enough time to find and elect a new bishop who will then be subject to approval from the national church.
“Since the very beginning, I have attempted to discern God’s will for me and for you, and this decision comes after much prayer and discernment about what God wants for us at this time,” Robinson said in his prepared remarks.
Robinson made it clear that the stress of being the focal point of discussion in the Anglican Communion has taken a toll on him. Robinson has been at the center of an international uproar over whether a married, openly gay man should lead a church that disapproves of homosexuality.
“The fact is, the last seven years have taken their toll on me, my family, and you,” he said. “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.”
In 1998, the Anglican church passed a resolution declaring homosexual acts “incompatible with Scripture,” but also condemned homophobia and declared “homosexual persons … are loved by God.”
“There are still things left for me to do. First and foremost, there is continuing to be a good bishop for you during the next two years,” Robinson said. “ I don’t intend to be a ‘lame duck,’ as you deserve a bishop during this interim that is ‘on all burners’ for the remaining two years. I intend to continue to be fully engaged as your Bishop in the remaining time we lead the diocese together.”
Robinson said in his remarks that he was in good health, having lost 25 pounds over the past seven years. He also said he has been sober for five years after seeking treatment for alcoholism.
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