Common Roots: Ancient Evangelical Future Conference

Evangelical elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church

A liberal evangelical, Michael Curry of North Carolina will be the church’s first African American presiding bishop

The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, Bishop of North Carolina, has been elected the 27th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Bishop Curry will be the fifth southern bishop and the first African-American leader of the church.


Meeting at St Mark’s Cathedral in Salt Lake City, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church on 27 June 2015 elected Bishop Curry on the first ballot and received 121 votes, defeating liberals the Bishop of Connecticut, the Rt. Rev. Ian Douglas who received 13 votes and the Bishop of Southern Ohio, the Rt. Rev. Thomas Breidenthal who received 19 votes; and conservative the Rt. Rev. Dabney Smith, Bishop of Southwest Florida who received 21 votes.

Born in Chicago and reared in Buffalo, New York, Bishop Curry was educated at Hobart College and trained for the ministry at the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. Ordained deacon in June and priest in December 1978 in the Diocese of Western New York, Bishop Curry served as deacon in charge, then rector of St Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Winston-Salem in the Diocese of North Carolina from 1978-1982. He served as rector of St Simon of Cyrene Episcopal Church in Lincoln Heights, Ohio from 1982-1988; and from 1988 to 2000 as rector of St James African Episcopal Church in Baltimore–the oldest African-American Episcopal parish in the South.

On 11 February 2000, Bishop Curry was elected the 11th Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina, the first African-American bishop of that diocese. While the first African-American to hold the top post in the Episcopal Church, he follows upon the path of the Rt. Rev. Herbert Thompson, Bishop of Southern Ohio, who in 1997 lost the election to become presiding bishop to the Rt. Rev. Frank Griswold, Bishop of Chicago.

Prof. Ryan Danker of Wesley Seminary in Washington DC told Anglican Ink the election of Bishop Curry was “a good day for the Episcopal Church. It was a good election.”

Dr. Danker who became friends with Bishop Curry while he served on the faculty of Greensboro College said “Michael is a disciple of Jesus Christ. He can say the creeds without crossing his fingers.”

Evangelicals should see in Bishop Curry a fellow believer, he observed, even though he holds positions on social issues at odds with most traditionalists. The new presiding bishop’s views on gay marriage, for example, are filtered through his experience as an African-American, Dr. Danker said, as he sees the issue in terms of the “unfolding justice of God.” His support for gay marriage lies not in any notion of civil rights, he explained, but as how “God’s justice is to be lived out.”

In an essay distributed to the convention that he hopes the Episcopal Church will enter a revival. “At a deep level I am suggesting a church-wide spiritual revival of the Christian faith in the Episcopal way of being disciples of Jesus,” he wrote.

As presiding bishop who would be expected to provide “leadership, inspiration and encouragement for that revival. Obviously the Presiding Bishop has CEO (Chief Executive Officer) responsibilities that must be exercised clearly, collaboratively and effectively. But in this mission moment of the church’s life, 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.”

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