Episcopalians, Anglicans react to historic election of Michael Curry as presiding bishop

June 26, 2015
Deputies stand on their chairs, holding aloft their phones, tablets and cameras to capture the historic moment of Presiding Bishop-elect Michael Curry entrance into the House of Deputies, including Deputies Dunstanette Macauley-Dukuly (Newark), the Rev. Sandye Wilson (Newark), Norberto (Bert) Jones (Newark), Delma Maduro (Virgin Islands), Wesley S. Williams, Jr. (Virgin Islands) and Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine (Virgin Islands) Photo: Cynthia L. Black/For Episcopal News Service

Deputies stand on their chairs, holding aloft their phones, tablets and cameras to capture the historic moment of Presiding Bishop-elect Michael Curry entrance into the House of Deputies, including Deputies Dunstanette Macauley-Dukuly (Newark), the Rev. Sandye Wilson (Newark), Norberto (Bert) Jones (Newark), Delma Maduro (Virgin Islands), Wesley S. Williams, Jr. (Virgin Islands) and Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine (Virgin Islands) Photo: Cynthia L. Black/For Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Salt Lake City] Reaction to North Carolina Bishop Michael Curry’s election June 27 as the 27th presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church – the first African American to hold that post — was swift and joyous, came both from Episcopalians and Anglican visitors who were present.

Here is a sampling of other reactions.

The Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, Diocese of Chicago director of networking

“… tears, prayers of gratitude and for his soul as he steps into this space. Also, I’m feeling that truly the Spirit is moving in a way that many have been longing for. This is only part about his race – it is also about someone who will bring a word of hope to places and people who long have been on the margins – he will give voice to the oppressed as one who knows it firsthand. I am rejoicing.”

Retired Central Pennsylvania Bishop Nathan Baxter

“I’m a Trinitarian at heart. And to see this week what the Supreme Court has done about universal health care, equality in marriage and now the church being bold to embrace not only a black man as our presiding bishop but a vision for evangelism that is so engrained in his character that we are going to be ready to step forward. I praise God for this week and what God has been doing.”

Three-time Liberian deputy Sheba Brown

“I’m excited because he’s a good man of God. We are happy that our church is united. We have peace. It doesn’t matter who is bishop. We are all God’s people.”

Union of Black Episcopalians President Annette Buchanan

“We are overwhelmed, excited – and I had one colleague say that we never thought in our lifetime that we’d live to see a black president of the United States and a black presiding bishop. Presiding Bishop-elect Michael Curry is a longtime UBE member. He believes in the church being inclusive for all, especially African-Americans and Africans of the diaspora, and we are confident that his ministry will expand to all in the church based on the experience that we’ve had with him to date. He’s in our prayers.”

As has happened with President Barack Obama, the first U.S. president of African descent, “the expectation levels are very high.”

“He will be expected to right all the wrongs of the church … move more quickly than others can in being prepared for the church of the future. We hope people understand the church moves according to God’s plan. It’s not just what Michael and we want. It’s in His time.”

 Jane Cosby, Executive Council member from Philadelphia, longtime anti-racism advocate

“I wanted him to get it. I prayed for him to get it. I prayed that it would be God’s will that he would get it. The fact that he got it on the first ballot and the fact that I’ve lived long enough to see a black president of the United States and now a black presiding bishop in The Episcopal Church, I’ve got nothing else to wish for. If I die to tonight it will be OK.

“Whatever heart and humanity this church has, black folk have helped it happen. And the description that I hear of the manner in which his diocese operates makes me know that if he can be allowed to function and help these things to happen, we can begin to be a church not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. My sense is the reason it’s so difficult to get young people – other people – to come to us is that they see the difference between what we say and what we do. And in his diocese, they do.

“I am just hoping that that can happen in the same manner so that it will benefit The Episcopal Church and the United States of America.”

The Rev. Lisa Fischbeck, vicar, Episcopal Church of the Advocate, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

“It is a bittersweet day for those of us in North Carolina. We are excited that the whole church will now experience the passion, commitment and leadership of Bishop Curry as we have known it for the past 15 years. But we certainly feel a sadness, too. Personally, I will really miss him as my bishop, but I am really excited that he will be our presiding bishop, especially at this time in the history of our church and the world.”

Retired Southeast Florida Bishop Leo Frade

“This is something wonderful. This is my fourth election for a presiding bishop and I’m elated. Bishop Curry is a friend. He started as bishop when I was transferred to the United States as a bishop. We’ve been close these past 15 years. What he says about Jesus is true. He is a true believer in our Lord Jesus Christ. It excites me; the church needs that kind of evangelism today, telling the world that Jesus Christ is alive and well.”

Massachusetts Bishop Alan M. Gates

“I think it’s a great day for the church. In a year when we’ve been so discouraged by signs of continuing brokenness in our church and in our society, it’s a sign of hope and unity. Thanks be to God.”

Characterizing atmosphere at St. Mark’s Cathedral during the election, he said, “It was extraordinarily spiritual. I’m not sure people realize – I certainly didn’t before being a part of it – the extent to which the bishops really do understand balloting in the context of prayer. We gathered, we had protracted times of silence, of prayer, a lot of singing. We pretty much sang every Holy Spirit hymn in the hymnal. After the election, we sang Lift Every Voice and Sing and we sang it with gusto.”

Retired Mississippi Bishop Duncan Gray III hugs an emotional Anita George, Mississippi deputy and Executive Council member, in the House of Deputies after the election of North Carolina Bishop Michael Curry as the next presiding bishop. Photo: Sharon Sheridan/Episcopal News Service

Retired Mississippi Bishop Duncan Gray III hugs an emotional Anita George, Mississippi deputy and Executive Council member, in the House of Deputies after the election of North Carolina Bishop Michael Curry as the next presiding bishop. Photo: Sharon Sheridan/Episcopal News Service

Mississippi Deputy Anita George, member of Executive Council, long involved in antiracism work

“At this moment, all I can do is grin and blabber. I am filled with joy, renewed hope and pride in my church and full of expectations for the dynamics that will happen with Michael Curry and good Episcopalians. It’s going to be unbelievable.”

Retired Mississippi Bishop Duncan Gray III, whose father also was Mississippi’s bishop, came over and hugged Anita George, and they began reminiscing about how far the civil rights movement had come, leading to this moment.

George: “His daddy was a pioneer … work that led up to this day.”

Gray: “It was when the crosses were being burned and people were being lynched. Clergy were losing their jobs.”

George: “His dad tried to corral the crowd” when James Meredith tried to enter the University of Mississippi. “For us, it’s our connected history.”

Gray: “It’s part of a narrative. When we sing Lift Every Voice and Sing, the faces just pass by: Medgar Evers and James Meredith.”

George: “I’m very excited about looking forward with Michael. Also we have to look back and we have to remember those who sacrificed, seriously sacrificed, to get us to this point. I give thanks for each generation.”

Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Mary Glasspool

“What can I say? I’m just overjoyed on behalf of the whole church. Right person, right place at the right time. Michael is a person of profound faith, and the joy of Jesus Christ … he’s been gifted with an infectious joy and spirit and that gift will serve him well.”

Utah Bishop Scott Hayashi

“This is a very, very, very, very, very good day for us in The Episcopal Church. We have a presiding bishop-elect who can excite the church, inspire all the people and be a witness to this whole world. I believe we are so very blessed to have Michael Curry as our presiding bishop-elect. I found myself tearful at the House of Bishops, not my usual way of being.”

Retired Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Barbara C. Harris (the first woman bishop in the Anglican Communion)

“This is a historic day for The Episcopal Church, and I think we can move forward with our mission and ministry under this new dynamic leadership. I never thought I’d live to see the day that Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected presiding bishop, and I never thought I’d live to see the election that this day brought, and on the first ballot at that.”

Ohio Bishop Mark Hollingsworth Jr.

“The definitive nature of this election is a reflection both of Bishop Curry’s readiness to serve as our presiding bishop, and the readiness of the church and the world in this moment for his companionship and leadership.”

Western Michigan Bishop Whayne Hougland

“My heart is so full. This is such an amazing day, to cap off a historic week like this with the election of Michael. He is the man of this time for this church. There’s going to be good stuff coming. We’re going to change the world.”

Michael Moore, deputy from East Tennessee
“As cliché as it sounds it’s just monumental with two enormous things happening this week. First, the Supreme Court decision on marriage and now, electing the first African-American presiding bishop in the history of the church. But his election has nothing to do with his race. He got elected because he is an evangelist, because of his sincerity, his spirituality and bringing people together.

“I’m a cradle Episcopalian, fourth generation Episcopalian, and I think he will do a lot to bring people back together again. Through him we can send a message to the world and to my daughter, who’s become cynical about the church. He can bring us all together, not just black people who’ve left, but he can also give white people hope.

“His election will send a message that we’re alive and well and we believe in Jesus Christ and we love everybody. Bishop Curry is the person to do that, that’s what we need. There’s so much divide in the world, we need someone like him to bring us together.”

Bill Nance, Asheville, North Carolina, volunteering at convention

“I’ve met Bishop Curry a few times, I’ve heard him preach and it’s the same way, every time. He’s full of energy and inspiration. He’s going to be good for the church. He will bring some new excitement to it, some new insights. I’m hoping he will bring some surprises. Just like today, they said he was coming in the House of Deputies by one door and he came in a different door. That’s the kind of surprise I hope he brings.”

Olympia Bishop Greg Rickel

“It’s a great day for the church. Bishop Curry is a true man of God. He will lead us greatly. I was so happy to be part of this moment, it was a wonderful moment, and I think we’ve got many, many great moments to come in The Episcopal Church with his leadership, and he’s a great collaborator so he’ll pull us all together in a very great way. Presiding Bishop Katharine has been fantastic. Things happen at the right time, at the right place, and that’s what happened today. The Holy Spirit was doing great work.”

Byron Rushing, vice president of the House of Deputies:

“This is quite a remarkable election. I’m – first – just so moved to have The Episcopal Church choose the best candidate regardless of race, and I think they did that. The other thing you see right now, and I just hope we can preserve it, is an incredible unity in both houses, incredible unity in the House of Bishops in this election, and you knew the House of Deputies wanted this after all the nominees came before us and spoke to us in that joint session. You could feel it in this house, and you saw it in our confirmation vote.

“I think the church needs to take a deep breath and figure out how remarkable this is, what God and the Holy Spirit have given us. This is a huge gift, and we have to say, what will we do with this incredible gift?  It’s the opportunity both of Michael and the opportunity of the unity he has been able to demonstrate.”

The Rev. Stephanie Spellers, chaplain to the House of Bishops

I can’t stop crying. This is not even about Michael Curry. … This is a victory for Jesus. … I could just feel the Spirit just pouring out, and it’s not going to be ever the same again.”

— Episcopal News Service reporters Tracy Sukraw, Pat McCaughan, Mary Frances Schjonberg and Sharon Sheridan contributed to this story.