Presiding Bishop urges the Church to ‘wake up’

Churchwide reconciliation initiative to launch this week

By M. Dion Thompson
Posted May 15, 2017

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry proclaiming the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement in a public event at Goucher College outside Baltimore, Maryland. Photo: Randall Gornowich

[Diocese of Maryland] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry returned to his old stomping grounds in the Diocese of Maryland, bringing an inspiring message and encouraging Episcopalians to claim their role as members of the Jesus Movement.

“’Heaven help the devil if the Episcopal Church ever wakes up,’” he said, quoting the famed 20th-century evangelist, Billy Sunday. “Wake up, Episcopal Church. That’s what the Jesus Movement is all about.”

Curry, who served as rector of St. James in Baltimore for 12 years, has been calling for a new period of evangelism within the church since being elected in 2015. This effort also includes a desire for the Episcopal Church to address some of the systemic race and class issues that plague American society.

“We need to find a way for the grace of God to bear on the deeply rooted system of sin that mires us in a quagmire of racism,” he said. Racial reconciliation, evangelism and the care of God’s creation are the roots of the Jesus Movement for the presiding bishop.

This week Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, will launch a churchwide program aimed at encouraging racial reconciliation. It is called, “Becoming Beloved Community: The Episcopal Church’s Long-term Commitment to Racial Healing, Reconciliation and Justice.” An introductory webinar is set for May 16.

The program is the result of a year’s worth of listening sessions, consulting and reflection. It began with the passage of Resolution C019 at the 2015 General Convention, which called for the House of Bishops and House of Deputies to create a vision for addressing racial injustice. The convention also budgeted $2 million to make the plan a reality.

Success in the drive for reconciliation will depend in large part on building relationships, said Curry.

“Deep down in the bowels of our racial dilemma is the truth that we really don’t know each other,” he said. “Racism has a field day with that because that’s where we get into stereotypes, and one of the ways you get out of that is to get people to engage in real relationships.”

During his Maryland visit, Curry gave a brief morning talk at the 233rd Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, squeezed in a couple of interviews, and preached to a nearly filled auditorium on the campus of Goucher College in Towson.

The evening event, known as “The Big Tent Meeting,” gave him a chance to have a little fun with the perceived reluctance of Episcopalians to engage in evangelism. He built his sermon around Acts 1:8 and brought in other biblical citations such as Isaiah 43:10-12. Then he brought the message closer to home, quoting from the baptismal liturgy and the catechism in The Book of Common Prayer.

“The truth I really do believe is that we need witnesses, and not just witnesses in the abstract,” he said. “We need evangelists to witness to a way of being Christian that reflects the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth.”

Curry used his love of baseball to find a surprising illustration of the sometimes subtle, yet powerful ways witnessing to the gospel has influenced public life. Apparently, Branch Rickey, the famed executive of the Brooklyn Dodgers, used the Beatitudes and other teachings of Jesus Christ to help Jackie Robinson find ways to withstand the insults that would come when Robinson integrated the major leagues on April 15, 1947.

“They changed major league baseball following the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth,” Curry said. “Be not afraid and be not ashamed to be Christians who are known by love, justice and forgiveness.”

During an earlier interview, Curry noted that part of his passion for proclaiming the Jesus Movement was born out of his own reflections and a desire to help people develop a richer spiritual life. Bible study is key to making that happen, he said, adding that in the current world of social media, the study need not be done face to face. But the study must happen.

“It’s kind of like the Emmaus Road,” he said. “Have a conversation and Jesus will show up.”

Curry also said that as the Church claims its role as the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, it also will find an ongoing role in the public square.

“We are not entering the political realm as partisans, but to lift up the values we have as Christians,” he said. “Jesus died in the real world because he dared to take the values of the Kingdom of God and live them.”

-The Rev. M. Dion Thompson, a priest in the Diocese of Maryland, is a former reporter for The Baltimore Sun newspaper.


Comments (18)

  1. Vicki Gray says:

    The Presiding Bishop is indeed waking up the Episcopal Church, enlisting it and us in the Jesus Movement…out of our buildings and onto that Road to Emmaus. Ah, Emmaus. Breaking bread together, we will recognize Jesus. Lead on, Michael.

  2. Katherine Beck-Ei says:

    I became aware of Thy Kingdom Come via an email today, and encourage every Episcopalian to sign-up (, as part of our U.S. Jesus Movement. There are thousands of us signed on, worldwide, for a time of focused prayer from May 25th to June 4th (Pentecost) for those who do are not yet believers to come to know Jesus. There are great resources at this movement’s website.

  3. Jack Cummings says:

    Our faith calls upon us to speak out against racial and ethnic injustices and calls us to action on a broad range of measures, from opening dialogues with those whose skin is a different shade to asking our elected officials to change laws that criminalize the search for economic opportunity. Thank you, Bishop Curry, for your consistent and strong message of engagement.

  4. John E. Kitagawa says:

    In reference to the Jackie Robinson story, we must also remember Jackie’s teammate, a Kentucky born shortstop known as “Pee Wee” Reese. Quoting Colbert I. King in his Washington Post article many years ago:

    “[The story] took place in Cincinnati during a game in which Jackie Robinson was having an especially hellish time. The stadium scene was ugly, and Robinson, true to his pact with Dodgers owner Branch Rickey, couldn’t fight back. He was standing on the field just taking it from the fans and the opposing dugout. As the abuse mounted, the Dodgers’ captain, Pee Wee Reese, walked over to second base and put his arm over Jackie’s shoulder, showing the crowd where he stood.”

    King goes on to say:

    “Robinson’s place in history is secure. He was a fighter, a pioneer, a believer. He stood tall. Robinson remains an inspiration for generations to come. But Pee Wee Reese deserves more than an honorable mention too. In a way, he served us too, by becoming a living lesson of how we should behave.”

    The Jesus movement is made up of many individuals playing their part to help us know the Kingdom of God is at hand.

  5. Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD says:

    The Presiding Bishop is going to have a difficult time waking the Episcopal Church up. It appears that many of his flock are to busy hating Trump to love Jesus. That would require them to love Trump just a Jesus loves them. I wonder what success the Presiding Bishop will have?

    It’s a good thing that SALVATION belongs to GOD and not the Church. Thanks be to God!

    1. Alma Flowers Jacksoville Florida says:

      I think it is not so much about hating Trump but hating the acts he has done. I agree we should love him as Jesus did but as Jesus loves us he hates the sins we commit. I pray for Trump and all the people he is hurting by his actions, and I keep believing Jesus has the last word. I know my church pray for Trump asking God to guide his actions and I am an Episcopalian who knows that change will only come as Bishop Curry said, when we act like Jesus no matter the situation.

      1. Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD says:

        Who exactly has Trump hurt by his actions? I haven’t noticed anyone being hurt by him. I do see a lot of damage being done by leftist rioting and destroying property belonging to others. Trump didn’t cause that. Looks to me Trump is accomplishing a great deal that the former President couldn’t. He is being recognized by other nations as a better President than Obama, that certainly isn’t hurting anyone. It is time to get over the election, Trump is the President of the United States. Give them the man your prayers and a chance to accomplish the good in what he does.

        1. Glory Ten says:

          The truth is not in your words, sir. This administration is less charitable and more hostile to “the least of these.” This was an apolitical conversation until you came in baiting people. Stop. Repent.

          1. Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD says:

            Anglican tradition is one of free thinking and expression. The problem in the Episcopal Church is it tries to silence opposition to its progressive agenda. Seems that our parishes are losing members right and left and the Mega Churches are growing beyond their capacity to accommodate their new members. To be in the Jesus Movement means one must make a personal decision and commitment to follow Jesus, making LOVE primary in their lives. LOVE is a hard and difficult thing to do. There is nothing wrong with hoping for the Separation of Church & State as long as faithful people are involved in both. One cannot hope to change the world by changing society, one can only hope that the world will change as God changes human hearts as those are come to Him through Jesus, His Son.

            I love this Church and will not be silent as it waste away.

  6. Dave Wynne says:

    Many folks have posted the need for reconciliation. Good stuff. Yet Sunday is the most segregated day in America.
    As a body of faith, should we not spend some time wondering about new parishes? About new members?
    Will folks of color (or anybody else) join us because we say we’re sorry, or because we light up the place on Sundays?
    What did your parish do this week to grow beyond current membership? How many folks within a rifle shot of your parish are unchurched, or are lonely with a deployed spouse, or are hurting spiritually?
    It’s not an ‘instead of’ choice, but we need to reverse our decline in membership or our statements of reconciliation come from a corpse.

  7. Susan hayes says:

    Racism seems to be like original sin, deplorable but somehow endemic to being human. We need to pray for Devine Grace to overcome it. We are capable of living without it, thankfully, there are many examples of open hearted people and societies, but living fearlessly trusting in the bountiful extravagant love of God seems to me essential for a peaceful joyful life.

    1. Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD says:

      Original sin was in fact the blaming of God for human decisions. Remember, God ask the man; “How do you know you are naked? Did you eat of the tree I told you not too?” The man answered; “The woman YOU created, gave me the fruit and I ate it.” The woman replied; “The serpent YOU created tricked me and I did eat.” The point is instead of taking responsibility for their own actions, they blamed God. When we fail to be responsible and blame God or anyone or thing other than ourselves, we commit the ORIGINAL SIN all over again.

  8. Frank E. Tate, III says:

    We, The Episcopal Church must answer the call..
    May all the People of God, whatever banner Flys in our Churches, together, Stand Up, for JESUS CHRIST..
    Call on HIM,The CALL IS FREE..

  9. Ronald Monterosso says:

    Obviously evangelism is important to the “Jesus Movement,” but respectfully, the Presiding Bishop is misrepresenting the message of our Lord by stating that ending racism and the care of God’s creation are the roots of the Jesus Movement . As to ending racism, that (along with ending many other forms of irrationally hateful behavior) would be a natural consequence of spreading all of the teachings and Gospel of Jesus. But it is not any part of Jesus’ teaching that his followers must try to end racial prejudice on earth if they ever hope to gain the Kingdom of Heaven. To the contrary His message was that we are NOT to focus on matters of this world but on our place in the world to come by living our lives here in a Godly manner and so –by our example– persuading others to live in this way as well. The Rev Bishop and the Church will never end racism by lecturing people about it or by lobbying for more laws. Such change will only come when people are awakened to ALL of the teachings of Jesus and their hearts are changed thereby.

    As far as the care of God’s creation –does the Bishop truly believe that Jesus called on his followers to protect God’s creation from destruction by mankind? It is well within God’s power to protect his creation against any force devised by mankind –including so-called “global warming”. Whether it takes a millennia or a millennia of millennia–God’s creation will heal itself and remove any trace of any damage caused by man. It is the epitome of hubris to believe otherwise. God does not need the Bishop or the Church to help Him protect His creation. However, what is not within God’s power is control over the free will of men. Therefore God does need our help and efforts to enlighten others and open their hearts to all of the words of Jesus.

  10. mike geibel says:

    Well said Ronald.
    The article is labeled as a message of racial unity, which every Christian supports. So why do I see many members posting negative comments? I believe these comments reflect the damage that has been done by the post-election political activism of the leadership which has divided congregations and driven away members.

    It is not the membership but the leaders who need to “wake up.” Bishops and many pastors seem to be mired in the third stage of denial:
    1) denial that there is a problem;
    2) denial that there is a big problem; and
    3) denial that the problem has anything to do with them.
    The PB’s concluding message to “take the values of the Kingdom of God and live them” is inspiring and is the true message of Jesus Christ. But for me, this message was undermined by the subtle call for members to take a “role in the public square.” I remain unpersuaded that Jesus was political.

    Merely rebranding the Church’s “social justice” agenda as the “Jesus Movement,” and proclaiming that the Church does not engage in partisan politics, cannot camouflage the fact that the Church adopts and advocates only leftist causes. I have seen no ENS published report of bishops and clergy publicly denouncing the violence and riots that have followed the call for “resistance.” I have yet to see a post-election proclamation from a diocesan convention or a “statement of bishops” which supports jobs for citizens, fixing our crumbling infrastructure, or relief from job killing governmental regulations and taxes. The budget of my local Diocese allocates $1.5 million to support Syrian refugees and promote a Sanctuary Diocese, but includes no funds for outreach programs to help our veterans and their families.

    I am not schooled in liberal versus orthodox interpretations of the New Testament, but it seems to me that combining the message of Jesus with partisan political activism–whether liberal or conservative–is an attempt to build a Kingdom that depends not on God, but on winning elections and destroying your enemies. I believe that the caution from scripture and history is to avoid advocating a political stance as God’s position, and to be particularly cautious when cozying up to politicians and adopting the partisan agendas of non-believers.

    As Abraham Lincoln noted in a time of war: “We need to pray that we are on God’s side, rather than claim that God is on our side! God’s care embraces the whole earth, including our nation’s enemies.” God is in control of the world: not Trump, not Putin, not Congress, and not the Republican and Democratic Parties. I believe that it is better to preach members how to live a righteous life and then trust in God rather than the bullhorn.

  11. Terry Francis says:

    Well said Mike. Our PB is all for one taking a role in the public square as long as the message given in the public square is leftward leaning. If you have conservative or traditionalist views, don’t bother. At the end of the day it is all political and not spiritual. Like you I cannot imagine our Lord and Savior with a bullhorn in His hand.

  12. Sarah Rachel says:

    Thank you Dr. Flint for your first comment about the hatred for our POTUS. I agree the Jesus Movement is not honest with itself. Yes, today was wonderful for the USA and Israel . Godspeed Pres. Trump for that!

  13. Tom Shettle says:

    God gave has Ten Commandments and Jesus said ” Do as you would be done by”. When was the last time you heard these from the pulpit?

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