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Bishop Robinson announces retirement

Last modified: 11/6/2010 12:00:00 AM
New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, whose openness about his homosexuality has divided the worldwide Anglican Church, announced today he is retiring. Robinson cited, among other things, the burden of that international schism.

“The fact is, the last seven years have taken their toll on me, my family and you,” Robinson, 63, said this afternoon at the close of the diocese’s annual convention. “Death threats, and now-worldwide controversy surrounding your election of me as Bishop, have taken a constant strain, not just on me, but on my beloved husband Mark…and in some ways you.”

Robinson, of Weare, won’t step down until January 2013, when he is 66, but to retire by then, Robinson had to begin the process today by announcing his intentions. He said evangelizing to the “unchurched” and “de-churched” will be his priority during his remaining time in the diocese and after his retirement. Robinson has been vocal about gay equality on state, national and international stages and said that will continue.

“I get the opportunity to make the case for God and for God’s church – either to people who have never known God’s unimaginable love, or to those who have been ill-treated in the name of a judgment God,” he said.

The news was so unexpected, the delegates at the convention in Concord gasped. The first reactions were “What?” and “No” and tears. Then delegates began handing tissues from table to table.

Afterward, Nicki Bourne of Grace Episcopal Church in Concord, said Robinson has shown her and the wider church that living as a Christian means being open and welcoming to all people. “And not just gay people,” she said. “It is a constant reminder that we should be inclusive of all people and to show rebounding love.”

Robinson too had to pause several times to wipe his eyes.

“Since I was ordained at the ripe old age of 26, the church has been my whole life,” he said, stopping to keep tears at bay. “I love getting up at 4:30 every morning to pray for you and I won’t stop. And . . . answering e-mails and questions and to respond to the needs of the clergy and congregation.”

He continued, increasingly unable to maintain his composure. “(The next bishop) has no idea what a joy and what a privilege it will be to serve you,” he said.

In the coming months, church leaders will form a search committee with hopes of choosing candidates for the next bishop by early 2012. The state’s Episcopalians will then chose a bishop through an election. Following that, the bishop-elect will face election by all the American Episcopal dioceses in September 2012.  Robinson will remain at the diocese for three additional months to work alongside the new bishop he said.


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