Openly gay bishop Robinson sets retirement date

Most Episcopal bishops retire around age 65, and Bishop V. Gene
Robinson made his retirement date official by asking the Diocese of New
Hampshire to elect a successor so that he can retire in early 2013.

delegates November 6 at the diocesan convention in Concord, New
Hampshire, Robinson, 63, said the furor following his groundbreaking
election as the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church has
taken a "toll on me, my family and you."

Robinson said he would
continue after retirement to be a roving ambassador for gay rights in
the church and beyond, particularly as a bridge between unaffiliated or
former Christians and a denomination that ordains women and gay bishops.

have had the privilege of bringing many people into the church for the
first time, or convincing them that the church is becoming a safe place
to which they can return with a reasonable expectation of welcome,'' he
told his convention. "This is evangelism for me, pure and simple.''

Robinson, who wore a bullet-proof vest during his installation as
bishop, said the diocese should elect a successor to take over when he
retires officially on January 5, 2013.

"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 .
. . and in some ways, you.''

Starting with his election in 2003,
Robinson's tenure shaped life within the 2.1-million-member Episcopal
Church and strained relationships with its sister Anglican churches

Conservative Anglicans, especially in Africa and Asia,
cut ties with the Episcopal Church after Robinson's election; one
prominent African archbishop called it a "Satanic attack upon God's

His election also deeply strained the ties between the
Episcopal Church and the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion,
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Last May, the U.S. church
consecrated its first openly lesbian bishop, Mary Glasspool, in Los

Even though Robinson's election caused the secession of
four U.S. dio­ceses and the birth of a rival Anglican Church of North
America for disgruntled conservatives, he remained unapologetic and said
there was no going back.

"I believe that you elected me because
you believed me to be the right person to lead you at this time,''
Robinson told delegates. "The world has sometimes questioned that, but I
hope you never did.''

His election touched off a dramatic
realignment of the 77-million-member Anglican Communion. Saying the U.S.
church is "out of step'' with other Anglican churches, Williams has
sidelined Episcopalians in Anglican decision-making bodies and proposed
pushing the U.S. church into second-tier membership.

meanwhile, have largely rejected external pressure and plotted their
own course by electing Glasspool and taking steps to approve rites to
bless same-sex unions and marriages.

Robinson said he is in good
health and remains sober five years after seeking treatment for alcohol
dependency, and has lost the "25 pounds put on over the last seven years
in part by eating all your good food.''  —RNS

Kevin Eckstrom

Kevin Eckstrom writes for Religion News Service.

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