Idaho's Episcopal bishop will resign next month to take a post in Boston alongside the first female bishop in the church's history.

"It has not been made lightly nor easily," Bishop David Bell Birney IV said Thursday of the decision. "We really love it here."No successor has been named for the Idaho diocese, which serves about 5,000 Episcopalians living south of the Salmon River.

Birney, 59, was named bishop of the diocese in 1982. His resignation is effective March 31.

He will be one of three bishops in the Massachusetts diocese, which encompasses more Episcopalians than any other diocese in the nation.

During his ministry, the New Orleans native has been active in hunger and justice issues. He served on Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus' task force for the celebration of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

In the past 30 years, Birney's ministry has taken him from Pennsylvania and New York to Uganda and Botswana.

He believes a now-controversial issue with some church members is a logical step in the church's progression.

When the Rev. Barbara Harris officially becomes a bishop Feb. 11, she will be the first woman bishop in the church's history, Birney said.

"I'm looking forward to being a part of the team," said Birney, who also will assist the Rt. Rev. David Johnson, bishop of Massachusetts.

The choice of a female bishop "is the next step in the progression our church has made," Birney said.

Harris will be the first female bishop ever in the Anglican Communion worldwide family of churches, whose 70 million members include America's 2.5 million Episcopalians.

The 58-year-old Harris brings a long list of credentials from civil rights struggles with fellow blacks and women that critics have termed radical and feminist.

Fourteen years ago, she carried the cross at a maverick ceremony in the Church of the Advocate, a service ordaining 11 female priests two years before the national Episcopal Church approved ordination of women.

Last September she was narrowly elected by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts to be their suffragan bishop, top assistant to the diocesan bishop. That began the process toward her consecration as the first female bishop ever in the Episcopal Church and Anglican communion.