Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

The 27th Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church

Opening Remarks at Executive Council of The Episcopal Church by Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry

November 18, 2015
Michael Curry

Opening remarks to Executive Council
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
November 15, 2015

Got my hand on the gospel plow
Wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now
Keep your eyes on the prize.
Hold on. Hold on.
Keep your eyes on the prize.
Hold on

My hope was to really share my deep prayer for us in the homily at Eucharist this morning. Following the way of Jesus will really guide us. And that Holy Spirit will really lead us. So, keep your eyes on the prize.

I want to say something about my new best friend at table one – President of the House of Deputies Gay Jennings.  She and HOD vice president Bryon Rushing visited me in North Carolina and that was really good.  We ate together, and really started our work together.

I have said it before, but please allow me to say it again. I am very much looking forward to working with President Jennings. We’ve already been working together over the summer. And it’s a real blessing. I also want to thank the members of the Nominating Committee and the Transition Committee for their faithful work and deep care for me and for the nominees for Presiding Bishop. And thank you to us all.

All the members of the staff, and Canon Barlowe – we have been working together.

We will keep moving.

I know there have been other General Conventions when significant things have happened. But I don’t think it an overstatement to say, but the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church was a real blessing for us all. It wasn’t perfect. Only God is perfect. But that Convention really did some remarkable work. It didn’t just happen overnight. It was the outgrowth of many years of hard work by so many who have worked in so many ways, many of whom are sitting in this room. That Convention was the result of all of us together praying hard, worshipping, listening to what the Spirit is saying to the churches, and daring to say, we’re going to follow Jesus as the Episcopal Church. And with the Spirit working in us, we worked through our differences, had our debates, did a little fussing along the way, and stepped out and followed Jesus. There was a sense coming out of that convention was a clarion call

I think the Spirit is messing with us. Working on us.

I think we all heard it:  Evangelism and Racial Reconciliation.

That gives us an enormous opportunity as Executive Council, as the board of the church, to show shared leadership in following Jesus. 

That Convention gave us a clarion call and clarified our common mission in this mission moment of our life together.

It was a call for a church wide focus on evangelism and racial reconciliation as how we can live fully as the movement of Jesus in this world.

The first has to do with us. I want to talk about how we do our work together.  I am very aware and committed to us being a community of faith where the ministry what Jesus has called us to be through Baptism.   For Real.  It’s not only about what we do but it’s how we work together.

I really believe we’re better when we work together. We need all our voices and all our gifts.  It may be more cumbersome, we may bump into each other and have different ideas, but the end product is better if we’re all in on it then if somebody goes off working alone.

The end product will be better.  It is a little more cumbersome but we will get there.

St. Paul actually figured this out. In Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and also Ephesians 4 he figures out the spiritual principles that can give order to the movement so that the movement actually moves forward, following Jesus.

These were the days of the movement.  It wasn’t a highly organized structure.  It was a movement with lots of moving parts.  Paul figured out the spiritual principals for the movement, the movement continues. 

It’s where he called us the body of Christ, composed of hands and feet, all needed, all part of the body. But he wisely reminded the diverse gifts and parts of the body, that while there are a varieties of gifts, they are all manifestations of the same Spirit. We need all parts of the body but we need to function as a body, the body of Christ.

There really is great hope and excitement about that. But it is important for all things, even movements, to be done “decently and in order.”

If Christ is the head.  If Christ is the mind, we will be moving together. Having the mind of Christ will determine where the whole body will go together.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

How do we get this all to work together.  Executive Council, the General Convention Office, The Presiding Bishop’s staff – Maybe we should step back and think – now how do we do this together.

Let me make two offerings that may help us move forward. I’ve shared these at the weekly meeting of the officers composed of the Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Deputies, the Executive Officer of the General Convention, the Chief Operation Officer, the Chief Finance Officer.

Between now and February, I will ask the staff of the Presiding Bishop to work with me to develop a proposal that articulates a process design for how we work together, how our diverse parts might work together going forward in the work of evangelism and racial reconciliation, and in all we do.  I want to work together respecting and honoring the unique roles and gifts of each of us as members of the Executive Council, the governing board of our church between conventions, as Presiding Officers and Officers of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, and as staff of the Presiding Bishop. All of us following what God is calling us to be.

I would like for us to be able to develop a process for how we do our work together in ways that early are a real partnership, genuinely collaborative, and yet honoring the wisdom of unique roles, responsibility and authority.

We will have some agreed upon clarity and we’ll talk about it in February. It is my intention to have that proposal developed in consultation with the Officers for your consideration. I think if we do this work between now and February that can enable us to then begin to move forward together.

Secondly, and this comes from how I’ve learned to work as a bishop.  I’ve been a priest a long time, and a bishop a long time. One way a bishop can help the system – and this is really the way I lead – is to have people directly connected to me helping different parts of the system simultaneously and making sure I was always connected to and aware of what was going on. In North Carolina I learned that it helped to have a few canons who were direct links between the congregations and the bishop.  We all worked together.  I would like to call a third Canon to the Presiding Bishop. As you know Chuck  Robertson is now serving as Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Ministries Beyond the Episcopal Church, and Michael Hunn as Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Ministry within the Episcopal Church. Both Michael and Chuck are working together with each other and with me.

If we are really going to do this evangelism and racial reconciliation for real, we got to have some hands on the ground.  We need a third canon to do this.  This canon would be Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Evangelism and Racial Reconciliation. As with the other two Canons, this canon would be responsible for carrying out the direct ministry of the Presiding Bishop in the work of evangelism and racial reconciliation, working together with our staff and church wide community toward these ends.

I have been working with Bishop Stacy Sauls as Chief Operating Officer and we spend time all the time to move forward.  Stacy is coordinating the efforts of the staff’s work.  Gay and I are in regular contact.  Michael (Barlowe) and I are in regular contact.

I know it’s kind of a buzz word these days, but I actually function pretty collaboratively.  You discern the mind of Christ better with the body than on your own. 

So we’re going to do this together. We’re going to do the work together.