Shortly after taking his job as Dean of Wellington's Anglican Cathedral, Dr Douglas Sparks was confronted by an anonymous note on his door: "Go home, Yankee."
Eighteen months later Dr Sparks has gone, leaving behind members of the 500-strong congregation.
Church leaders say it was his family's homesickness rather than the animosity of a few malcontents that sent him back to the United States.
Canon Michael Holland said "an old cranky woman" had put the note on his door. Others had objected to his including a Maori greeting at the start of each service.
Canon Holland said the vast majority of the congregation was profoundly upset at Dr Sparks' decision to leave.