Bishop Michael Curry is the first black head of the Episcopal Church - the church of the white American elite. The progressive bishop's mission is to stop the fall of the faithful.
Will the infectious energy of Michael Curry be enough to reinvigorate the Episcopal Church (the U.S. branch of Anglicanism), which has been weakening in recent years? The official installation of this African-American bishop at the head of its 1.8 million followers caused a sensation under the arches of Washington National Cathedral on Nov. 1.
At 62, the man becomes the first black bishop to hold this position within one of the whitest churches in the history of Protestantism in the U.S. According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, only 4 percent of Episcopalians are African-American, while 90 percent are white.
This descendant of North Carolina and Alabama slaves, who grew up in an America steeped in racial segregation, also takes the helm of the religious denomination most traditionally associated with a white economic and intellectual elite in U.S. history. “My grandmother couldn’t imagine Barack Obama in the White House, and I know she couldn’t imagine her grandson as presiding bishop of the Episcopal church,” he said.
In Favor of Same-Sex Marriage
Married and a father of two, this bishop is known for holding progressive views within a church which experiences, like most historic churches, various trends. He was one of the first bishops to allow gay marriage in North Carolina. Raised by a human rights activist father, he has, throughout his career, emphasized the fight against racial, economic and educational discrimination. His work with the poor, as well as his joviality, recently earned him a comparison to Pope Francis in the Washington Post.
As a leader of the Catholics,* he promised himself that he would bring more “visibility” to his Church. The stakes are high. For the last 20 years, it has been suffering due to disaffection from its most conservative followers. The ordination of female bishops and that of an openly gay bishop in 2003 finally diverted many of these conservatives away from the Episcopal Church. It has since lost 20 percent of its regular churchgoers, and the decline continues.
This loss has plunged the Church into financial difficulty, compelling it to dispose of a part of its immovable properties.
“… God is not finished with the Episcopal Church yet,” Bishop Curry thought to remind everyone during his installation, before concluding his sermon with a thunderous, “Don’t worry, be happy!”
*Editor's Note: Although the Catholic and Episcopalian religions have many similarities, they are not one in the same. The author has used the term Catholics in place of Episcopalians in this instance.