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The head of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh - who during his 20 year-tenure led conservative Episcopal congregations to split from the church throughout North America - has announced he will retire.

Bishop Robert Duncan made the announcement Saturday during the diocese's annual convention at St. Stephen Church in Sewickley, saying he felt like the work he was called to do is finished, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Sunday.

"The years of conflict - and of course-correction - within the body of Christ are past now," the 67-year-old said. "The challenge ahead is one of strengthening the church for discipleship and evangelization in a hostile and needy nation and world."

His retirement is effective on June 30.

The Anglican diocese's standing committee will oversee the transition and search for a new bishop. A vote on the nominees is expected in April.

Duncan led conservative churches in the area and throughout North America to break from the more liberal Episcopal Church and its Canadian equivalent.

Duncan was elected bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1995. He became the foremost spokesman for conservatives who were unhappy with the liberal tendencies of the Episcopal Church. The conflicts came to a head in 2003 with the ordination of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who is gay.

Duncan and most western Pennsylvania congregations split with the Episcopal Church in 2008.

He said the local Anglican diocese has kicked off several new congregations in college towns and other places and that his replacement will have to continue those efforts.

"We came to understand that church planting was the best way to reach new people for Christ," he told delegates. "We stood together for Jesus in the difficult days of realignment, and led a whole movement that became the Anglican Church in North America. Aided by ecumenical partners, we accepted the loss of property and assets, unwilling to compromise the 'faith once for all delivered to the saints,' and we turned storefronts and bars into places of worship."