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Wednesday, February 15, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM


Gay bishop checks in for alcoholism rehab

The Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. — The Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson, is being treated for alcoholism, a step that surprised friends and colleagues but seemed unlikely to threaten his position in the church.

A key administrative committee said it stood by Robinson, whose 2003 election as bishop of New Hampshire caused a furor in worldwide Anglicanism because he lives with a same-sex partner.

"I am writing to you from an alcohol treatment center where on Feb. 1, with the encouragement and support of my partner, daughters and colleagues, I checked myself in to deal with my increasing dependence on alcohol," Robinson wrote in an e-mail to clergy Monday.

Robinson's assistant at the Diocese of New Hampshire, the Rev. Tim Rich, said Tuesday that a growing awareness of his problem, rather than a crisis, led to Robinson's decision.

In his letter, Robinson, 58, said he has been dealing with alcoholism for years and had considered it "as a failure of will or discipline on my part, rather than a disease over which my particular body simply has no control, except to stop drinking altogether."

The Episcopal Church, based in New York City, lets dioceses handle such matters and referred calls about Robinson to New Hampshire. Between diocesan conventions, an elected "standing committee" of priests and parishioners usually decides administrative questions, including handling a bishop's absence. The standing committee said it "fully" supports Robinson: "We commend him for his courageous example to us all, as we pray daily for him and for his ministry among us."

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