CONCORD, N.H. – With three mighty thumps on the church door Sunday, V. Gene Robinson (search) knocked and was welcomed into St. Paul's sanctuary (search), where he officially became the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop.
Sunday's investiture ceremony does not carry the same weight as Robinson's consecration, which rocked the Episcopal Church in November. But it gave a capacity crowd of more than 700 the chance to welcome the new leader of the Diocese of New Hampshire (search) with whoops, cheers and a standing ovation. Bells rang out from the church tower.
"Journeys of faith, you know, are a risky business," Robinson said during his sermon. "God is always calling us out of our comfort zones."
Bishop Douglas Theuner, who officially retired Sunday, handed Robinson the ceremonial staff that transferred the diocese into his hands. They had shared power since Robinson was made a bishop.
"May the Lord stir up in you the flame of holy charity and the power of faith that overcomes the world," the Rev. David Jones, rector of St. Paul's, said in the ceremony.
"It's a family time for the diocese. It's a time to give thanks and a time to welcome Gene to his new role," said the Rev. Hays Junkin, who opened the door when Robinson knocked.
Robinson is the first openly gay man to be elected as a bishop in the national Episcopal church, as well as the worldwide Anglican Communion (search) of which it is a part. His consecration drew protesters and triggered angry responses from many corners of the world.
Several Anglican bishops abroad have said they will no longer associate with the Episcopal Church USA (search) because it approved Robinson's election.
In the United States, a dozen conservative bishops are organizing an alternative network of dioceses and parishes that object to Robinson's lifestyle. They argue that homosexuality violates biblical laws.
Robinson has lived with his partner, Mark Andrew, a state administrator, for 15 years and has two daughters from a previous marriage.
"Let's be clear," Robinson told parishioners in Manchester in October. "We've always had gay bishops. All I'm doing is being honest about it."
Most of the state's Episcopalians support Robinson, but a conservative minority continues to oppose his consecration. Two churches, Church of the Redeemer in Rochester and St. Mark's in Ashland have voted to affiliate with the new network of conservative churches.
Robinson said he hopes to work with the two churches, even though their members have said they do not want Robinson to serve as their bishop.
"Here in the diocese we are continuing to reach out in every way possible to individuals for whom this is still a troubling thing," Robinson said.