Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, whose consecration instigated a global religious controversy, announced to the Disocese of New Hampshire on Saturday that he would take early retirement, citing public backlash and “constant strain” from the experience.
Robinson, 63, whose consecration seven years ago as the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church divided the Anglican Communion worldwide, announced Saturday at the annual convention of the New Hampshire diocese that he plans to retire in January 2013, short of the mandatory 72-year-old retirement age for Episcopal bishops.
He cited death threats and the considerable strain that the worldwide rift has placed on him, his family, and the church.
“The fact is, the last seven years have taken their toll on me, my family, and you,” Robinson told the convention.
“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 has reportedly received death threats, hate mail and rejection from some parts of the global Anglican fellowship following his consecration seven years ago. He was surrounded by bodyguards and wore a bulletproof vest under his vestments at the 2003 ceremony.
He and his partner of more than two decades, Mark Andrew, held a civil union ceremony in 2008, and the bishop publicly advocated for same-sex marriage in New Hampshire, which the state legalized last year.
In April 2009, Robinson made the Out magazine Third Annual Power 50 list of the most influential gay men and women in the U.S., landing at number 7.
Beyond his convention address, Robinson has declined to comment to the media regarding this retirement.
The Episcopal Church is the U.S. body in the 77 million-member Anglican Communion, a group of churches that trace their roots to the missionary work of the Church of England.