Institutions

Episcopal Church elects Michael Curry first black presiding bishop

Bishop Michael Curry led marchers through the streets to protest against gun violence as part of the Episcopal Church convention in Salt Lake City on June 28, 2015. Curry was elected as the first African-American presiding bishop during the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which is held every three years in different cities around the country. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jim Urquhart *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-RUSSELL-COLUMN, originally transmitted on July 2, 2015 and RNS-CURRY-Q&A, originally transmitted on Oct. 28, 2015.
Bishop Michael Curry, led marchers through the streets to protest against gun violence as part of the Episcopal Church convention in Salt Lake City, Utah June 28, 2015. Curry was elected as the first African-American presiding bishop during the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which is held every three years in different cities around the country. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

Bishop Michael Curry, led marchers through the streets to protest against gun violence as part of the Episcopal Church convention in Salt Lake City, Utah June 28, 2015. Curry was elected as the first African-American presiding bishop during the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which is held every three years in different cities around the country. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

SALT LAKE CITY – Episcopal bishops have made history again.

On Saturday (June 27), during a private meeting at St. Mark’s Cathedral in downtown Salt Lake City, they elected Bishop Michael Curry as the first African-American presiding bishop of the 2.5 million-member faith.

Curry won in a landslide vote in a race against three other candidates. The vote came nearly a decade after the bishops chose their first female leader.

Leading up to Saturday’s selection, Curry who has served as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina since 2000, said he envisioned a church committed to being part of the “Jesus movement.”  He said he would focus on evangelism and acts of service, along with a “churchwide spiritual revival.”

While he must lead and tend to day-to-day functions as the faith’s chief executive officer, Curry said his job is more than that.

“In this mission moment of the church’s life,” he said, “the primary role of the presiding bishop must be CEO in another sense: Chief Evangelism Officer, to encourage, inspire and support us all to claim the calling of the Jesus movement.”

Curry, 62, spent 12 years as rector of St. James Church in Baltimore before his election as bishop of the N.C. Diocese. He and his wife, Sharon, have two grown daughters, Rachel and Elizabeth.

He will succeed Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the faith’s first female presiding bishop, who completes her nine-year term Nov. 1.

The U.S. Episcopal Church is a branch of the 80 million-member Anglican Communion, with churches across the globe and its origins in the Church of England.

About 9,000 people have come to Salt Lake City for the Episcopal General Convention, held every three years, where leaders and lay followers vote on proposals about the direction for the church.

On Friday, the convention reportedly erupted into applause when the Supreme Court’s ruling was announced legalizing same-sex marriage across the U.S. The Episcopal Church has advocated for equal rights for gays and lesbians since 1976.

Curry has been a supporter of LGBT rights and was among the first group of bishops to allow same-sex marriages to be performed among the NC diocese’s 112 congregations.

Outspoken on social issues, including race and gender issues, he has spoken out at Moral Monday demonstrations in Raleigh, the state capital, challenging local and state governments to lift up the poor and marginalized.

But he may be best known for his energetic African-American preaching style that mixes a down-home flavor with a distinct emphasis on what he calls “radical hospitality” and the Christian message of God’s grace and love.

“He talks about being called to be relationship with God that’s not just about your own personal  piety, but about changing people’s lives and changing the world for the good,” said the Rev. Jim Melnyk, president of the N.C. diocese’s standing committee and rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Smithfield, N.C.

A Chicago native, Curry graduated from Hobart College in Geneva, N.Y.,  and received a masters of divinity from Yale Divinity School.

Melnyk said Curry will be known as a bridge-builder who recognizes that people may not always agree.

“Rather than being divided by people who differ, he believes we’re called to love one another and work together to transform the world,” Melnyk said.

(Yonat Shimron contributed to this report.)

About the author

Robert Gehrke

24 Comments

Click here to post a comment

  • bqrq: the cross has been used to explain our Christian relationships: the crossbeam has been used to describe our relationship with our neighbor, and the upright post, our relationship with God. And sadly, most of the Protestant churches have removed the upright beam from the cross, and focus only on the crossbeam. They have discarded God Almighty, tossing the Trinity to the wayside, and instead have turned to secular humanism, embracing the world. I can only hope Our Lord is merciful on that last day. If people only knew how horrible that Day will be…

  • duncan,
    Why not take your mother to meet Curry? Perhaps he would practice for her what he preaches for other people’s children.

  • Susan, this is supposed to be a Christian man who is a leader in his church; his position on homosexuality is a worldly position, and not from God; these things only cause confusion to the faithful. What does the Bible say? : (1John 2:15-17): “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him…the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world…the one who does the will of God lives forever.” People in leadership positions in these various churches are going to be judged severely. Notice what Jesus says: “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!.” (Matt 18:6-7). Jesus said that those who cause destructive harm to children, should have a millstone tied around their neck, and tossed into the sea (v. 6).

  • Wonderful. Congratulations to Bishop Curry. The Episcopalians are a shining light within Christianity. I hope the Church of England over on this side of the pond catches up with them!

  • I honestly don’t quite understand how so many people can equate the anal rape of children with consensual sex between two adults of the same sex. For some reason, you seem to have an obsession with anal sex when it comes to homosexuals, but it’s worth pointing out here that half of all homosexuals are women, and they do not engage in what you describe as ‘sodomy’ and that many homosexual men also do not engage in it. Of course, if they do want to, that’s fine. Doesn’t do anybody any harm.

  • Yes Matthew 22:37-39 is clear that first and foremost, you will Love the Lord with everything you have in you, and secondly, you will love your neighbor as yourself. This is all to be done within the context of our charitable love and relationship with Almighty God. But when we throw out the first command, to honor the second, we become slaves to this world. Pianoman, if you had a friend who was severely addicted to drugs, would you go and buy some for him or her? If you said yes to that, then I can understand your position on gay marriage, but most of us would rather help that person turn away, rather than assist them to continue in their self destructive act.

  • A quick mention that Chapter 5 of Matthew is how we are to love our neighbor. It is far from just agreeing with every sin your neighbor wishes to commit.

  • The episcopalians exist for the purpose of pushing sexual immorality, hating God, hating families and hating other Christians.

  • “It is far from just agreeing with every sin your neighbor wishes to commit.”

    Which is not in any part of scripture when referring to loving thy neighbor. Glad to see how Christians feel fit to amend the words of their own Lord and Savior to suit personal ends.

  • Larry, it’s not part of any Scripture? Ephesians 4: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 25Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26”

  • Should we judge all straight men by the vast number who rape their daughters and kill their wives?

  • Again not seeing, “Treat people who sin like crap” in that. I see a lot of “be less selfish and dishonest” in there. A bit of advice which would probably do you a world of good.

    You are trying to pretend that a “sin” which is not even described in the Bible except in the most self-serving interpretations means not loving God.

    So again, it appears you are trying to amend and tack on a meaning to Jesus’s command to love thy neighbor which is just not there. Way to undermine your Lord and savior, Greg1!

    But then again, only a delusional fool thinks religious belief has any basis in rational thought or accepts arguments based on facts. It is irrational self-validation at best. You will find in Scripture whatever will justify your existing ideas. I have zero illusions anyone will get through to you on this front because you will cough up any excuse to act like a hateful dillhole if you think God can excuse it.

ADVERTISEMENTs