'The last seven years have taken their toll'

Last modified: 11/7/2010 12:00:00 AM
New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson announced yesterday that he would retire in 2013. Here's an excerpt from his speech:

By January 2013, I will be approaching my 66th birthday. (This is where you say, 'But bishop, you look so young!') I will have been a bishop over nine years, a reasonable and typical tenure for a bishop my age in the Episcopal Church, in what I consider to be one of the great and healthy dioceses of the Episcopal 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. I received the diocese under my pastoral care in good shape, thanks to Bishops Phil Smith and Doug Theuner, and believe that I will be passing it along to my successor also in good shape. I have tried to be a faithful steward of the trust and responsibility you placed in me. Only you can be the judge of that.

The fact is, the last seven years have taken their toll on me, my family and you. 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. While I believe that these attitudes, mostly outside the diocese, have not distracted me from my service to you, I would be less than honest if I didn't say that they have certainly added a burden and certain anxiety to my episcopate. While my resignation may not stop such pressures completely, it does seem to be the right time for me to initiate the nearly two-year process for your election of a new bishop. A three-month overlap will allow for a smooth and appropriate transition. . . .

In the meantime, there is mission and ministry to be done. . . . I will continue my work of evangelizing the unchurched and the 'de-churched.' I get to talk to probably more unchurched people than any other bishop in the Episcopal Church. On college campuses, speaking to various public forums, and also in my work with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, I get the opportunity to make the case for God and for God's Church - either to those who have never known God's unimaginable love, or to those who have been ill-treated, in the name of a judgmental God, and who have left the Church. Recent news brings us the tragic stories of teenagers who have taken their own lives because religion tells them they are an abomination before God and who believe that their lives are doomed to despair and unhappiness. I get to tell them a different story. By all accounts, I 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. This is evangelism, for me, pure and simple. This is my attempt at fulfilling 'the Great Commission' to go forth into the world, baptizing in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit - a calling not just for a bishop, but for each one of us.


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