Bishop Gene Robinson, the openly homosexual Episcopal bishop whose appointment drove a deep rift within the worldwide Anglican Communion, on Saturday entered into a civil union at a private ceremony at St. Paul’s Church in New Hampshire.
Before about 120 guests at the church, Robinson, a 61-year-old divorced father of two, entered a union with Mark Andrew, his partner of more than 19 years, Reuters reports.
Robinson’s spokesman, Mike Barwell, said the event was kept private out of respect for next month’s worldwide Anglican conference.
The 77 million-member Anglican Communion, which is a worldwide federation of national churches, has suffered internal conflict since Robinson was consecrated bishop in 2003 by the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion.
Disputes over homosexual issues, scriptural authority and other matters have become a global issue for the communion, whose leaders will gather this summer for their once-a-decade Lambeth Conference in Britain.
Robinson has been excluded from the Lambeth Conference but plans to attend as an outside observer.
He said he wanted to enter into a civil union before leaving for England to ensure legal protections for Andrew and his two daughters, given the death threats he has reportedly received.
Robinson and Andrew held a non-religious ceremony in which they became legal partners, followed by a formal church service.