Posts Tagged ‘Presiding Bishop’

The Madison Square Garden Revival Tent

Monday, November 4th, 2019

Talk has been going around the Episcopal Church that the Presiding Bishop would like to hold a revival in New York City next year, just before the 2020 election. It would take place in some large venue like Madison Square Garden or Yankee Stadium; one hopes the Garden, given the uncertainties of autumn weather.

I can’t say that I am filled with enthusiasm for this idea. When I was a boy, I was touched by a visit to a Billy Graham crusade in Boston. But, today, the idea seems a bit simplistic, not to say old-fashioned. I find it hard to imagine a skeptic or a non-religious person taking the opportunity to spend an evening with a bunch of church people.

On the other hand, Bishop Michael Curry is an extraordinary preacher. While some of his diocesan revivals have had mixed results, there is no doubt that the Episcopal Church could use some new life–not to mention, new blood. And there is no doubt that our nation could use all the religious energy it could get before the 2020 election.

I guess we will have to see where the Spirit leads us. —J. Douglas Ousley

Privacy and Illness

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church recently announced that he was about to undergo surgery for prostate cancer. This news was an example of a general trend of public figures being open about their health issues. The Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Michael Curry didn’t give many details of his illness, but the fact that he was undergoing the most radical treatment for this form of cancer–removal of the prostate–suggests that the sickness was serious.

We might contrast this announcement with the late Pope John Paul II’s reluctance to share any information about an illness that was increasingly apparent to all who saw him. Only after his death was it revealed that he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, even though many observers suspected as much. In any event, his suffering without complaint was heroic.

I don’t think there is a hard and fast rule whether celebrities should reveal their problems or not. In their shoes, I think that I would be reticent to say anything but I can’t be sure of that.

One advantage of going public, though, is that you will be sure to get more people praying for you. And that, surely, would be a blessing. —J. Douglas Ousley

Rebranding Jesus

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

The recent General Convention of the Episcopal Church enthusiastically endorsed the Presiding Bishop’s priorities of evangelism, racial reconciliation, and care for the earth.

While these priorities are uncontroversial, they are very different. Dealing with racism and the environment will take years of effort and are social issues for non-Christians as well as Christians. Evangelism, on the other hand, is a pressing need specifically for Episcopalians whose ranks have been declining for decades. And if our evangelism isn’t successful, there won’t be any church to care for the environment or work for racial harmony.

Episcopalians have always found it easier to start a social program than to convince people to join their church. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is pushing the idea that we are members of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement. Whether that rebranding will help us to add to our rolls remains to be seen. —J. Douglas Ousley

Talking the Talk

Monday, May 21st, 2018

American Episcopalians could be pleased with the reception given to the sermon by the Most Rev. Michael Curry at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last Saturday.

I have been surprised at how few of the Episcopalian laypeople I have talked to knew of Bishop Curry or were aware that he is the Presiding Bishop of the whole Episcopal Church. Even fewer knew that he preached in the pulpit of the Church of the Incarnation last December 6, at the 100th anniversary celebration of the Church Pension Fund.

To those familiar with the free-wheeling preaching style of African-American clergy, the sermon wasn’t surprising. But in the formal atmosphere of the royal chapel of St. George’s Windsor, Bishop Curry’s energetic oratory came as a bit of a shock. It could not have been more different than the cerebral reflections I heard the previous Saturday from the new Bishop of London, during her installation in St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Episcopalians could also be proud of the precise Anglican liturgy, immaculately executed with lovely music. All in all, it was more than an elaborate ceremony; the wedding, even to the skeptic, was clearly a compelling act of worship. —J. Douglas Ousley

Jesus Movement?

Monday, December 11th, 2017

Last week, Incarnation had the great honor of hosting the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Church Pension Fund. Officiating at the Eucharist and preaching was none other than the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Michael Curry.

This was clearly a great honor–there are over 10,000 individual Episcopal Churches, so clearly most parishes never see a Presiding Bishop.

Bishop Curry spoke as he often does of our Church as “the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement.” I certainly couldn’t disagree with this description of our church. But I wonder if it sounds a bit too evangelical?

God knows, we need evangelism; our membership continues to decline. But we want to be sure to draw a contrast between our branch of Christianity and fundamentalist Evangelicals. Still, if we let them claim exclusive rights to be followers of Jesus, we’ve certainly lost something!

And at any rate, the word, “movement” is apt. Our church sometimes seems to be so bound up with tradition that we can’t change or “move.” And everyone, young and old, is happy to be part of a movement that is going forward, growing and contributing to the joy of the world. —J. Douglas Ousley

The Color Black

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Many observers have wondered why racial conflict seems so prevalent now in the United States after almost eight years under an African-American president. The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church–also African-American–has felt called to make racial reconciliation one of the prime emphases of his ministry.

While I think this is a very good question, I have no answer to it. Perhaps black leadership has made people feel freer to express their grievances. Perhaps our nation is dealing with issues we have been covering up in the past.

Whatever the cause, racial conflict continues. Episcopalians of all skin colors will have this problem before them for years to come. —J. Douglas Ousley

Most Reverend

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

Last Sunday, Bishop Michael Curry was installed as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. In written form he is now addressed as “the Most Reverend Michael Curry.”

Up to recent times, American Presiding Bishops hadn’t used this form of address, which is appropriate for archbishops such as the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby Instead, Americans had gone by the title, “the Right Reverend”–the slightly less pretentious form of addressing a bishop.

But now the office and title have followed the general culture trend of inflating and magnifying social positions. What Jesus would have made of all this is anyone’s guess (and I say this as one whose written title is “the Reverend Canon”!)

In any event, Bishop Curry strikes one in person as a humble man. And his introductory video talks about following Jesus. Fortunately, one can be a disciple with no title at all. —J. Douglas Ousley

An Optimistic View?

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

In her last days as Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori has offered a positive view of her tenure. You can read the whole address on this link; here’s a sample of what she said:

“The Episcopal Church has come a long way in the last 10 years. We are no longer consumed by internal conflict over various social issues. We are clearer about who we are – a multinational church, with congregations in 17 nations, worshipping in countless different languages, thriving in international, immigrant, and multicultural contexts everywhere, and discovering the abundant life that comes in turning outward to love the neighbors nearby and far away.”

While no doubt an accurate assessment, Jefferts Schori doesn’t note the great decline in number of parishes, members, weddings, baptisms, etc. in the past ten years. Much of the “internal conflict” has been resolved by people giving up the fight and moving to other denominations or splinter groups.

Most important to me is the apparent dilution of the Episcopal identity into a highly politicized, left-of-center advocacy group. I realize that is a tendentious remark, and I would love to be convinced otherwise. —J. Douglas Ousley

For Once, I Was Right

Monday, June 29th, 2015

I have an almost perfect talent for mis-predicting the outcomes of elections.

But I got last Saturday’s election right. In fact, I predicted a year ago that Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina would be a strong candidate for Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. At the beginning of this year’s General Convention in Salt Lake City, the House of Bishops chose him to be our next PB.

The election was surprisingly lop-sided, indicating that our bishops recognize the need for a powerful preacher and charismatic personality at the helm. One person can’t do everything. But we can at least put our best bishop to the front of the line. Deo gratias. —J. Douglas Ousley

Not Breaking News

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

The 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church begins this week in sunny Salt Lake City. The Convention is always held in the summer and always in cities that are cheap to visit in summer months; a few years ago, the convention was in very sunny Phoenix.

The main interest seems to be the election of a new Presiding Bishop. I’ve already given my opinion on that in a previous blog. Some bishops are predicting that my first choice of a year ago, Michael Curry of North Carolina, will be elected on the first ballot.

What is equally interesting is how there is no other main interest! The world’s largest democratic body, meeting for almost two weeks at vast expense, seems to have nothing much to decide.

That’s especially disheartening when every recent year’s statistics register declines in membership and attendance at American Episcopal churches. May God save his church. —J. Douglas Ousley