Michael Bruce Curry is scheduled to take office November 1.
By Frederick H. Lowe
Michael Bruce Curry, the first African-American Presiding Bishop-Elect of the Episcopal Church, articulated in a pithy manner what it may be like to lead a mostly white and very wealthy congregation.
“It’ll be interesting to see what terms get used about me. Let’s wait and see,” Curry told a crowded news conference in Salt Lake City that included the Episcopal News Service.
Curry said the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman presiding bishop paved the way for him. Curry will succeed Jefferts Schori on November 1, when he will begin serving his nine-year term in office.
“I was there when it happened (Jefferts Schori’s election), and I remember just realizing it was an experience of the Holy Spirit for real. And today I had the same feeling.”
The House of Bishops elected Curry, currently Bishop of North Carolina and the first African American to lead a southern diocese, to Presiding Bishop-elect on the first ballot during the church’s 78th convention June 27th in Salt Lake City.
His election comes at a tumultuous time for America and for the nation’s religious community.
On June 17th, Dylann Storm Roof, a 21-year-old white supremacist, was welcomed into a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church in Charleston, S. C. After about an hour, Roof pulled a gun and shot to death nine people, including the church’s pastor.
With the church office of Governmental Relations and other efforts, Curry said he will address racism.
The Episcopal Church is not like any other church in America.
It is the church of the nation’s ruling class. The Episcopal Church has its origins in the Church of England in the American Colonies. Many of its members were slaveholders or involved in the Trans- Atlantic slave trade, according to the book “Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide.” The Church of England has apologized for its role in the slave trade.
Episcopal church members are wealthier and better educated than other religious bodies in America. Historically, the church’s members have included Henry Ford, J.P. Morgan, the Astors and the Vanderbilts. Some Episcopal churches, however, are not wealthy.
Most members are Republicans, and they are leaders in business, law and politics.
Their influence has been detailed in several books, including “The Power of Their Glory: America’s Ruling Class: The Episcopalians” by former Philadelphia Daily News reporter Kit Konolige.
Curry was born in Chicago on March 13, 1955, but he attended public schools in Buffalo, N.Y. He said his mother died, and he was raised by Josie Robbins. His grandmother and several others also raised him. All of the women were members of his church community, he said
Curry doesn’t mention a father or grandfather. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, Elizabeth.
He received a Master of Divinity Degree in 1978 from Yale Divinity School. Curry was elected eleventh bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina on February 11, 2000.
Curry said during the news conference that his priority is serving and working for the cause of the Jesus movement in the world.