The Right Revd. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church, closed out the 78th General Convention with a powerful address on Friday. His sermon was effectively a call to return to the Great Commission. For those of us who want to see a renewal of discipleship and evangelism in the Episcopal Church, the choice of Michael Curry seems, well, inspired.
There are many, many reasons I’m excited about the election of Michael Curry, including the historical precedent it represents. Here are a few more…
1. He knows the biblical story.
In his sermon, PB-elect Curry read from Isaiah 40—a well-known passage that’s often quoted without reference to its context. Anyone can recite a few verses of Scripture. To use the text well, however, you have to know the story.
PB-elect Curry knows how to paint the biblical landscape. He knows how to tell the story behind passages like Isaiah 40. In his brief sermon, he seamlessly connected this text to Israel’s story—in particular, their painful exile in Babylon—and to its eventual culmination in Jesus.
He knows the songs Israel sang in exile.
His knowledge of Scripture runs far deeper than the ability to rattle off a few Bible verses. He knows the story.
This matters, because if we are to know where we should go—how we should live—we have to know where we’ve been. The biblical story cannot be an afterthought when discerning where God is leading. We need to be soaked in the narrative. We need prophetic voices like PB-elect Curry who know how to connect the ancient story to our world today.
2. He can speak to—and challenge—both progressives and conservatives.
Often, PB-elect Curry sounds like someone who’d be right be at home among evangelicals. He reads Max Lucado. He watched Son of God. (Well, the trailer, at least!) He even worked in a mild jab at Darren Aronofsky’s film Noah (which, incidentally, was better than most of the criticism it got from evangelicals, but that’s for another day).
At the same time, PB-elect Curry marches in the Moral Monday protests. He’s an advocate for justice and inclusion. He understands that reconciliation in Christ has profound social implications. He challenges us to be a prophetic alternative to the “nightmare of the world”—that is, the nightmare of injustice, oppression, and exclusion—because of the gospel of Jesus.
PB-elect Michael Curry defies evangelicals’ caricature of Episcopalians as Christians-in-Name-Only who say the Nicene Creed with their fingers crossed. His faith is robust, vibrant—it’s the fire in his bones.
At the same time, his full-throated gospel proclamation should challenge progressives to embrace—and share—a full-orbed good news. God’s justice cannot be separated from the salvation achieved by Christ, or vice versa.
3. He’s got a big gospel.
We need a big gospel. We need a gospel that can lift us out of the pit. We need a gospel that proclaims reconciliation with God and with each other. We need a gospel that is more than a “get out of hell free” card and more than a blueprint for social activism. We need a gospel that transforms individuals, communities, and whole societies—a gospel that liberates captives from spiritual and economic oppression, from alienation and exclusion.
This is the gospel PB-elect Curry proclaimed in his sermon:
God came among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to show us the way to be reconciled with God… and reconciled with each other. He came to show us how to become more than simply the human race—that’s not good enough. He came to show us how to be more than a collection of individualized self-interests. He came to show us how to become the human family of God.
This is a gospel for everyone—liberal and conservative, traditionalist and progressive. This is the movement into which all of us were drafted at our baptism, and it is a movement that transcends every other divide:
I don’t care whether your label is traditionalist or progressive; if you’ve been baptized into the Triune God, you’re in the Jesus Movement. I don’t care who you are, how the Lord has made you, what the world has to say about you. If you’ve been baptized into Jesus you’re in the Jesus Movement and you are God’s.
This is the mission of the church. Bishop Curry’s election gives me hope that we will renew our commitment to this mission in the years ahead.
Images: The Episcopal Church; Hannes Flo on Flickr (text added to original) / CC BY 2.0
14 thoughts on “Three reasons I’m really, really excited about our new Presiding Bishop”
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! :^)
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He is exactly what this church needs right now. I am very excited to see how he will lead TEC in the coming years. And it’s because of that fire in his bones: This man loves Jesus, wants to follow Jesus, and wants this church to follow Jesus.
So very excited.
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Couldn’t agree more…but I guess you knew that already. 🙂
How does this sit with Bishop Martins, and Springfield ill!
We are liberal and have been sucking it up for years. We are so tired of just not accepting people for what they are and not what it we think they should be .No longer intetested into going to senate because it’s all cut and
dried before we even there
Yes…i know what you mean. I saw some of his less-than-constructive commentary on Twitter during the General Convention.
Just by reading these comments, my eyes are blurry with tears of joy and the presence of the Holy Spirit. I’ll try to download these comments and pass them on.
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I have witnessed him preach at Christ Church Cathedral and I followed him and his comments or discussions during the Episcopal Church General Conventions following the election of the previous Presiding Bishop with regard to the most controversial issues. I admired him then and greatly admire him now!
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I love Bishop Curry, but I disagree with your emphasis on the biblical stories of the OT. They undermine Christianity with the support of slavery, genocide and polygamy. Fortunately much of it has been disproven (DNA evidence says the Israelites are the Canaanites; they did not slaughter them) and the focus of the church is more on the message of the NT rather than trying to reconcile history with mythology.
Hi Drew, let me clarify. I’m not suggesting we should read everything in the OT as if it represents God’s ideal. It clearly does not. (I would add to the examples you already shared the horrendous treatment of women.) The OT reflects the culture in which it was written; that doesn’t mean we should read it as God’s endorsement of that culture and its values. We have to look for the trajectory within Scripture to see where God is moving—and where we should move. I think there’s an overall trajectory in the Bible toward more equality, inclusion, peace, etc. This trajectory, of course, was not completed with the last book of the Bible; it’s up to us to continue pushing toward God’s ideal. All I’m saying is that we need to be conversant with the whole biblical story so that we can see where it is moving—precisely so that we don’t read accounts of genocide in the OT, for example, and think that somehow reflects what God wants for the world.
From what I have seen, Bishop Curry knows the Scriptures well, but crucially, he also knows what to do with them.
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God bless the HEAD CRAZY CHRISTIAN!!!
Ben, overall I thought this post was great, and I share your enthusiasm. But over the past few years I have noticed a creeping Pelagianism in some of what Bishop Curry says about the Gospel. It even shows up in what you quoted from his inaugural sermon here. +Curry says, “God came among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to show us the way to be reconciled with God… and reconciled with each other.”
Notice how the action here is OURS, not God’s. Sure, God comes among us and shows us, but WE do the work of being reconciled to God and each other. That strikes me as contrary to what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, that GOD was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. God does the reconciling, and we respond. I’m all for the imitatio Christi, which +Curry brings up often. But God wasn’t in Christ simply setting a nice example for us. He was in Christ doing something that actually broke down the barriers between us and God and which redeemed us from captivity to sin. Now that’s the Gospel for everyone!