New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson says he chafed for several years at being branded the first openly gay bishop of the Anglican Church until he realized that he was wasting a pulpit from which he could advocate for equality. "I'd been given this really remarkable opportunity and it would be selfish of me not to be the best steward of that opportunity," he recently told The Associated Press in an interview as he prepares to retire in January. "We went from my consecration, which set off this international controversy, to nine years later seeing gay, lesbian and transgender congregants welcome at all levels of the church, including bishop." Robinson's election in 2003 as the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican church created an international uproar and led conservative Episcopalians to break away from the main church in the United States. Robinson, 65, will hand the pastoral staff to his successor, A. Robert Hirschfeld, in a ceremony at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Concord on Jan. 5. As he prepared to retire after nearly a decade as bishop, Robinson reflected on the crucibles and crusades of his tenure.