The openly gay Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, has announced he will retire early.
Rev Robinson will be 65 when he retires in 2013, seven years before the usual retirement age for bishops.
Announcing his plan at a diocesan meeting, he said recent years had “taken their toll” on his family, his congregation and himself.
He said: “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.”
But he added that he would continue to be a public figure, working on college campuses and in public forums.
Rev Robinson also mentioned the spate of reports of young gay teenagers killing themselves.
He said: “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.”
Rev Robinson was the first openly gay, non-celibate bishop to be elected when he was ordained in 2003.
His appointment caused deep rifts between liberals and traditionalists.