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Episcopal Church elects first black presiding bishop

Episcopal Church elects first black presiding bishop
Bishop Michael Curry, of North Carolina, speaks during a news conference after being elected the Episcopal Church's first African-American presiding bishop at the Episcopal General Convention Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Salt Lake City. (Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, the first African-American to lead an Episcopal diocese in the southerm United States and a former rector in Baltimore, will become the first black presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.

Curry, 62, who was elected presiding bishop Saturday during the denomination's national assembl, has been the bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina since 2000. Previously, he was the rector of St. James' Episcopal Church on West Baltimore's Lafayette Square for 12 years.

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At St. James, he led a rebuilding effort after the sanctuary was hit by a 1993 fire. Curry, known for his exuberent preaching style, was also credited with starting more than 80 new ministries there, including a gospel choir and an after-school academy serving West Baltimore.

Curry's election is the second consecutive historic choice for the church of nearly 1.9 million members. He will succeed Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first female presiding bishop and the first woman to lead an Anglican national church. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. body of the Anglican Communion, an 80-million member worldwide fellowship of churches with roots in the Church of England.

The church has been roiled by the criminal charges that Baltimore prosecutors filed against former Bishop Heather Elizabeth Cook in the December death of a bicyclist. Cook, who is awaiting trial, has pleaded not guilty to all 13 counts against her, including automobile manslaughter, driving under the influence of alcohol and leaving the scene of an accident. If convicted on all charges, Cook could be sentenced to more than 20 years in prison.

At a news conference, Curry said his selection as the first black leader of the denomination was "a sign of our church growing more deeply in the spirit of God and in the movement of God's spirit in our world." He will be installed Nov. 1 in a service at the Washington National Cathedral, the day Jefferts Schori completes her nine-year term.

"We've got a society where there are challenges before us. We know that. And there are crises all around us. And the church has challenges before us," Curry told the assembly, when he was introduced as presiding bishop-elect. "We are part of the Jesus movement, and nothing can stop the movement of God's love in this world."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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