The rift in the Anglican communion over homosexuality was reopened when its first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, announced he was retiring early because seven years of controversy had “taken their toll”.
Robinson’s consecration in the diocese of New Hampshire in 2003 brought conservatives and liberals in the Anglican communion to the brink of schism.
He was the first non-celibate gay clergyman in the Anglican communion to become a bishop.
Last year North American traditionalists broke away from the US Episcopal church to set up their own network.
This year Episcopalians consecrated a non-celibate lesbian to the post of assistant bishop in Los Angeles.
Too much to bear
Robinson said “the constant strain” was too much to bear.
“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, and in some ways, you.”
He said he would continue to work on college campuses and public forums.
Robinson said New Hampshire was the one place he was always “the bishop” and not “the gay bishop”.
News of his early retirement did little to appease those who are angry with the inclusive nature of Episcopalians. A group accused US Anglicans of “promoting ethical and doctrinal standards … contrary to scripture”.
However, the Reverend Susan Russell, former president of Integrity USA, which works for inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life of the church, called his retirement “the beginning of the end of an era”.
She said: ” We have just elected a lesbian dean at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. We’re moving towards a time when electing a gay bishop will be increasingly normative.” —