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Passing the baton: The Episcopal Church prepares for new Presiding Bishop

Posted on: October 29, 2015 10:31 AM
Photo Credit: Janet Kawamoto / Episcopal News Service
Related Categories: Abp Curry, Abp Jefferts Schori, USA

[ACNS] A new era for the Episcopal Church (TEC) in America begins this weekend when the Rt Revd Michael Curry, currently Bishop of North Carolina, is installed as its 27th Presiding Bishop and Primate during a service at the National Cathedral in Washington, which will be live streamed on the internet.

Bishop Curry was elected during TEC’s General Convention in June, receiving the support of 121 votes from the 174 cast by members of the House of Bishops – the first time a presiding bishop in TEC has been elected on the first ballot. Confirmation of his election by the House of Deputies was overwhelming, with 800 votes in favour and just 12 against.

“Jesus of Nazareth really didn’t found an institution. He started a movement,” Bishop Curry said in an interview with Kim Lawton for Religion and Ethics News Weekly on PBS. “I see us re-engaging that movement and living it out as the Episcopal Church as part of that Jesus movement.”

Speaking about the divisions within the Episcopal Church, Bishop Curry told journalists at a press conference that he was “supportive of the presiding bishop and the policies of our church, and I continue that,” before adding: “I can also tell you that that I am committed to the work of reconciliation. I think that is part of our Gospel mandate.”

In his PBS interview, Bishop Curry elaborated, saying that there was “room for equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people, but also equality for those whose conscience may differ and may disagree with that. We’re going to make room for us all.

“My slave ancestors used to sing a spiritual that said ‘there’s plenty good room, there’s plenty good room in my father’s kingdom,’ and there really is.

“We have things that we disagree about. But you know what? Disagreement isn’t anything new in the church. Just read the New Testament. The question is not will there be a disagreement, but will there be a deeper unity? And I think part of our challenge now is to call us to that deeper unity and that mission that the world needs right now.”

In a separate interview with Adelle M. Banks for the Religious News Service, Bishop Michael described the diversity of Anglicans and Episcopalians. “The Episcopal Church, which is part of the Anglican world, is the same church that gave the world Desmond Tutu, and so we’re quite a diverse group. I think one of the beautiful things about our church — and that I hope will be more true — is that it really is in fact a church of many voices. And all those voices come together around that shared vision of a world transformed by the love of God.”

On Saturday, Bishop Curry will attend a vigil celebration and eucharist, sponsored by the Union of Black Episcopalians (UBE).

“The vigil celebration is an opportunity for all to be with Bishop Curry and to pray with him,” UBE spokesman the Revd Canon Sandye Wilson, who will preach at the service, said. “The model is similar to the vigil that Archbishop Justin Welby conducted prior to his instalment in Canterbury.”

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will preside and Presiding Bishop-Elect Michael Curry will celebrate the Eucharist which will take place at the Armory in Washington, DC.

The service will be broadcast live online at at at 11am Eastern Time (3pm GMT) on Saturday 31 October.

Bishop Curry’s installation, and his first sermon as Presiding Bishop, will take place the following day at the Washington National Cathedral. The liturgy will be “reflective of the comprehensiveness of the Episcopal tradition and community,” a TEC spokesperson said.

That service will also be broadcast live online, at and at, from midday Eastern Time (5pm GMT) on Sunday 1 November.

ACNS will interview Presiding Bishop Michael Curry later in November. In the meantime, you can watch his interview with Kim Lawton below.