The man at the eye of the storm battering the Anglican communion celebrated his same-sex relationship with a civil union ceremony and a church blessing on Saturday.

Bishop Gene Robinson’s election as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003 made him the first openly gay man to take control of an Anglican diocese.

His elevation caused huge ructions within the worldwide Anglican church over gay clergy and the blessing of gay relationships.

This weekend, however, the controversy was forgotten as he and his partner Mark Andrew took advantage of new legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples in New Hampshire by entering into a civil union.

The ceremony was held on the fifth anniversary of his election as Bishop.

Both the civil union and a service of thanksgiving were held at St Paul’s Church in Concord, the state capital of New Hampshire.

Concerns about security meant that Mr Andrew and Bishop Robinson, who have been partners for two decades, did not publicly reveal the date of their intended nuptials.

More than 100 people attended and the civil ceremony was conducted by friend of the couple and justice of the peace Ronna Wise.

The leaders of the Anglican communion from across the world will be gathering for the Lambeth conference later this summer.

Held every ten years, the conference has provoked controversy, with the Archbishop of Canterbury wavering over whether or not to invite Bishop Robinson.

In an interview with PinkNews.co.uk published earlier this month Bishop Robinson spoke about the ceremony.

“We’re not having a wedding, but the law provides for a civil union,” he said.

“It provides about 400 of the 1100 rights and protections that heterosexual marriage offers, so it’s not equal, it’s not equality, but it’s certainly a step forward.

“And frankly the reason I’m doing it at this time is that there is every reason to believe that my life will be in danger at the Lambeth conference.

“There are lots of crazy people out there and you know more and more crazy people are turning to violence.

“And so I’m not willing to put my life at risk without taking advantage of what protections I can put in place, in a civil union for my partner and family. I think that’s what any wife or husband would do.”

Since the start of 2008 same-sex couples may enter into a New Hampshire civil union, as long as both parties are at least 18, not a party to another civil union or a marriage and not closely related by blood to their civil partner.