Inspired by the Mayor’s focus on the unhoused and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s call to demonstrate love, L.A. Bishop Diocesan John Taylor announces new supportive housing projects on church campuses
When Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry comes on the scene, expect activities to rise to a higher level. That’s because the charismatic head of the worldwide Episcopal Church has an infectious energy that compels people to act.
And significant action is exactly what occurred after Curry’s call for churches to show love, compassion, and justice to those less fortunate was combined with Mayor Karen Bass’ emergency declaration against homelessness. The two pronouncements resulted in a bold commitment by the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.
“We want to build affordable housing and permanent supportive housing on 25% of our church campuses all over the region,” said L.A. Bishop Diocesan John Harvey Taylor, who serves as chief pastor/teacher to 200 parishes, missions, schools and institutions in six counties. The charges include the historically Black congregations of Church of the Advent, St. Phillips, and Christ the Good Shepherd Episcopal Churches in L.A. and St. Timothy Episcopal Church in Compton.
Taylor made the announcement during the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration sponsored by the diocese’s Program Group on Black Ministry on January 15. The Rev. Guy Leemhuis is president of the standing committee and Canon Suzanne Edwards-Acton is co-chair.
Standing before an overflowing congregation at Christ the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Leimert Park, Taylor told the audience – comprised of Bass, Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Heather Hutt, and hundreds of people – of the diocese’s intention.
“Dr. King himself invites us to heed Mayor Bass’ clarion call on housing justice,” said Taylor as he cited the L.A. Sentinel article on Jan. 12 detailing famed activist’s dismay about homelessness stated more than 60 years ago.
Turning towards Bass, he said, “Your honor, we have 128 churches in your city and all over six counties. As you know better than anyone, mayor, homelessness is a regional crisis. We’re committed to building affordable, permanent supportive housing.
“Ten are under construction now, one more will break round this summer and 10 more are on the drawing board. By your inspiration, the light of Dr. King’s witness, as we follow the presiding bishop and by the grace of Almighty God, there are plenty more to come,” insisted Taylor.
In response, Bass joined the audience in applauding the promise and said, “I’m so excited to hear Rev. Taylor. You made a commitment to me, so let me make a commitment to this community. There is nothing more important than bringing Angelenos inside. To hear that you are going to build housing, the commitment you have from me is that all of us (referring to Councilmembers Harris-Dawson and Hutt) are going to do all that we can to make sure that you get the help that you need so that housing can be built.”
Providing housing and other needs of underserved communities is part of the presiding bishop’s emphasis on “recommitting to the work that Dr. King’s life was dedicated to” and “recommitting to the work of following in the footsteps of Jesus.” Curry hopes to inspire all Christians to use their talents to transform neighborhoods, schools and churches into safe places “where there really is justice and equity for everybody.”
“I think we as Christians and church folk need to let the [Holy] Spirit leverage our lives to do the kind of important work that where we see injustice or somebody suffering – if we’re following the Jesus who heals folks, following the Jesus that tried to right things that were wrong, following the Jesus who was committed to the way of love and loved everybody, if we’re committed to that, then our churches must be community organizations,” declared Curry.
“Our churches must be places that children and young people can come after school and be safe and secure. Churches need to do that for senior citizens, churches need to play a part in the homeless situation, helping folks who have no homes, working together with community organizations to create affordable housing. That’s what Jesus was all about. He wasn’t crucified ’cause he was nice,” he said.
Curry also encouraged believers not to be concerned about the decline in membership that most traditional denominations – both Black and White – are facing in the 21st century. Instead, he advised parishioners to focus on imitating the actions of Christ to attract people to unite with the church. His belief is that others will be inclined to participate if they witness believers offering tangible sustenance to those in need.
“If folks see us doing what Jesus did – feeding hungry folks, caring for people, caring about their neighborhood, worshipping God and then leaving worship and actually serving in the world – then people may be beating their way to our doors,” observed Curry.
“When the church begins to engage the community and be a presence of love and justice and compassion – when that happens, the church comes alive. It may not attract great throngs, but Jesus only had 12 and look what they did. I think if we mobilize the Black church, Hispanic church, historically White church – if we all mobilize what Jesus told us to do and actually do it, it will make a difference in every context in which we find ourselves,” said the presiding bishop.
While Curry gained an international following after viewers witnessed his lively sermon at the wedding of the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, that prominent event does not top the most memorable moments during his tenure as leader of The Episcopal Church. Admitting that he has experienced a range of impactful occasions, he listed the most notable as worshipping with persecuted Episcopalians in the Philippines, Cuba, China and South Africa.
“I’ve seen people being faithful and really being Christian in circumstances far more difficult than anything. I’ve seen people in those circumstances being loving and being faithful and caring for folks in need and trying to be voices for justice and compassion. That moved me. I’ve seen what Jesus can do,” said Curry.
“To be able to be with people who have been faithful and a witness for Jesus when it’s really hard – that’s a reminder for all of us.”