On Sunday, Bishop Michael Curry was installed as the first black leader of the U.S. Episcopal Church. He used the occasion to discuss the need to evangelize across the divides of race, education and wealth, the Associated Press reports.
During the celebration of his new position within the church, held at Washington National Cathedral in D.C., Curry spoke about his mother, who was given Communion at a white Episcopal parish before desegregation. He said that it prompted his father to join the denomination and later become a priest.
"He was dumbfounded," Curry recalled. "Years later he would say he joined the Episcopal Church because he really hadn't imagined that could happen in America. He said, any church where blacks and whites drink out of the same cup knows something about the Gospel I want to be a part of."
The bishop, who led the Diocese of North Carolina for about 15 years, succeeds Katharine Jefferts Schori, who also made history as the first woman to lead the church.
"God has not given up on the world, and God is not finished with the Episcopal Church yet," Curry said.
"It is an understatement to say we live in a deeply complex and difficult time in the life of the world," he added. "This is a time when, again, it is an understatement to say there are challenges before the church and communities of faith. This is a time of difficulty and hardship for many. A time of goodness and joy for others. And a time when we must even find ways to save the Mother Earth, who is the mother of us all."
AP notes that the installation comes at a time when the Episcopal Church is facing shrinking membership and fewer and fewer Americans are associating with religious groups. Curry also takes the helm at a time when racial tensions are more pronounced than ever, and there has been increased focus on those issues and the church, according to AP. In 2008, the newswire notes, Jefferts Schori held a national service to apologize for the church's collusion with slavery, segregation and racism.
Curry, who has acknowledged the ongoing need to confront the church's past, said, "It's about listening and sharing; it's a relationship where God can get in the mix," Curry said.
Read more at NBC News.