Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, is divorcing his husband, Mark Andrew.
Robinson made the announcement in a column published today on The Daily Beast. “While the details of our situation will remain appropriately private, I am seeking to be as open and honest in the midst of this decision as I have been in other dramatic moments of my life — coming out in 1986, falling in love, and accepting the challenge of becoming Christendom’s first openly gay priest to be elected a Bishop in the historic succession of bishops stretching back to the apostles,” Robinson writes.
Robinson was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1972. He was elected bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire in 2003, making him the first openly gay person to hold such a position. He retired last year and is now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.
He and Andrew met in 1987, moved in together a year later, entered into a civil union in 2008, and married in New Hampshire in 2010. Robinson and his wife, Isabella, divorced in 1986 after 14 years of marriage. They have two daughters.
“My belief in marriage is undiminished by the reality of divorcing someone I have loved for a very long time, and will continue to love even as we separate,” Robinson writes. “Love can endure, even if a marriage cannot.” He also notes, “It is at least a small comfort to me, as a gay rights and marriage equality advocate, to know that like any marriage, gay and lesbian couples are subject to the same complications and hardships that afflict marriages between heterosexual couples.”
There have been sympathetic comments on Robinson’s situation from various quarters within the Episcopal Church. “Of course, he’ll get some slings and arrows,” the Rev. Susan Russell, a priest from Pasadena, Calif., and an LGBT rights activist, told the Associated Press. “But the paradigm has shifted so dramatically that people more and more get that our marriages are no different than anyone else’s marriages, and that includes the reality that some of them fail, no matter our dreams and hopes.” Robinson will remain an “icon of a faithful Christian man living out his vocation, not by his choice, but by his placement in history.”
Robert Lundy, a spokesman for the conservative American Anglican Council, reasserted his belief that “the teaching of the Bible and the Anglican Communion is very clear that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life” but told the AP that the dissolution of one marriage would not affect arguments over same-sex marriage. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
A spokeswoman for the Diocese of New Hampshire urged prayers for Robinson and Andrew.