MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — An Anglican bishop who says he was warned by churchgoers that he was not safe in his own Australian diocese over his work to address decades of child sexual abuse has announced his resignation.
Newcastle Bishop Greg Thompson, who was sexually molested as a teenager by bishop who died in 1988, said in a statement Thursday he was quitting to focus on his health.
The 60-year-old said he had witnessed firsthand the culture and conduct from some sections of the church, both as an abuse victim and in his work to address the diocese's abuse legacy.
"When I started this journey to right the wrongs of child abuse in the diocese, I didn't expect to be in this position, nor did I expect to uncover systemic practices that have enabled the horrendous crimes against children," Thompson said.
"The decision to resign was not an easy one, it weighed heavily on my heart. However, I must place the wellbeing of my family and my health above my job," he said.
Thompson has been on leave since November when Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse finished hearings focused on child abuse in Newcastle, a city 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Sydney. The royal commission — which is Australia's highest form of inquiry — has been investigating since 2013 how churches and other institutions responded to the sexual abuse of children over decades.
He testified to the inquiry that people of power and influence provided a protection racket during decades of abuse by clergy and lay people in the diocese.
A group of influential churchgoers including a former Newcastle mayor wrote to the royal commission questioning the timing of Thompson's abuse claims, saying he could have put other young people at risk by waiting until 2015 to come forward.
"It sends a strong message that I'm not safe in that place and there are consequences if I do not follow what they want me to do," Thompson told the inquiry about the actions of the dissident members of his diocese.
"Public harassment. Public shame," he said.
The royal commission heard of a divide within the diocese, with some members believing a number of priests were unfairly disciplined over sex abuse allegations.
Thompson's resignation, which takes effect May 31, was announced a day before the royal commission's final hearing into the Anglican Church begins in Sydney.
Thompson, who is married with two adult children, became Bishop of Newcastle in 2014.