Black Episcopalians throughout the Southland expressed God-praising delight upon hearing of the historic election of the Right Rev. Michael Curry as the first African American presiding bishop of the denomination.
Bishop Curry won a landslide 121 votes, defeating three other candidates who each garnered 21 votes or less. The decision was affirmed on a vote of 800-12 by the House of Deputies, the voting body of clergy and lay participants at the Episcopal General Convention, which is the top legislative body of the church.
“As soon as the names of the four nominees were made public, some of us were in earnest prayer for the wind of the Holy Spirit really to blow. I’m just so thrilled! Everybody is. There’s a newness and enthusiasm about his election,” said the Rev. Vanessa MacKenzie, pastor of Episcopal Church of the Advent in South Los Angeles.
Rebecca Shaw, a lifelong Episcopalian and a member of Episcopal Church of the Advent, added, “His election is very exciting for our church. I believe Bishop Curry possesses all of the qualities to be a great leader for our denomination.”
Bishop Curry will succeed Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who completes her nine-year term on November 1. She was the first female presiding bishop and the first woman to lead an Anglican national church. The New York-based Episcopal Church is the United States body of the Anglican Communion, a worldwide fellowship of churches with 80 million members and with roots in the Church of England.
Bishop Curry, 62, has been bishop of North Carolina since 2000, leading a diocese of 48,000 church members, 112 congregations and a network of ministries. He will now lead a nearly 1.9 million-member sect known for its history as the faith home of many of the nation’s Founding Fathers and presidents.
A native of Chicago, he and his wife, Sharon, have two daughters. Bishop Curry grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., and graduated from Hobart College and Yale Divinity School. He was ordained as a priest in North Carolina, leading parishes there and in Ohio. He then served for 12 years at St. James Church in Baltimore, Md., which was established in 1824 as the third black Episcopal congregation in the United States.
Bishop Curry is known for his emphasis on evangelism, public service and social justice. According to the Rev. MacKenzie, “Bishop Curry reminds me, in many ways, of (Bishop) Desmond Tutu. He is very, deeply spiritual. His activism is rooted in his faith and in his spirituality.
“He is a dynamic preacher. He is so grounded, so focused. When I heard about his election, I sang, ‘Amazing Grace’ because his election is a gift of grace from God because we need to be fearless in moving forward that the church never ceases to be the voice for the voiceless, the hope for the hopeless and he will help lead us as confront in the fight against poverty and racism. This is a wonderful new moment in the church,” she declared.
(The Associated Press contributed to this article.)