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WASHINGTON: Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's Installation: The Desolation of the Episcopal Church

WASHINGTON: Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's Installation: The Desolation of the Episcopal Church

By Sarah Frances Ives Ph.D.
November 1, 2015

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's installation at the Washington National Cathedral offered variegated panoplies of music, drumming, dancing, cultures, religions and theologies. The lengthy service finally ended with a new vision for the Episcopal Church. This vision comes from Bobby McFerrin, as Michael Curry proudly yelled many times at everybody, "Don't worry, be happy!" Curry seemed oblivious to the fact that this dated pop song from early 1988 was foreign to most people's experience. Yet everything done in the installation service was foreign to most people's experience. Curry seemed like a magician trying to dazzle people with his bizarre liturgy accented by the loud drumming that accompanied music and movement.

Wildly rhythmic drumming began the day with about 150 bishops processing in to this. The repeated syncopated rhythm created a hypnotic effect that became not joyful, but oppressively overwhelming. Almost every musical selection included drumming, always loud and long. Moving with these beats, some dancers carried long-silvery ribbons that were thrown and tossed about in the air.

Following this odd beginning, former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori answered Curry's three knocks on the Cathedral doors. The two leaders joined together, both dressed in impressive white chasubles and miters, and swept around the Cathedral looking something like two Merlins from the King Arthur legend. Immediately these two magicians moved into the Baptismal Renewal of Vows with Jefferts-Schori praying sanctification over the water. They took green branches and the two wildly began shaking baptismal water on everybody without distinction or permission for those watered upon. They called this ritual asperging. While they ran around throwing water on people, a choir bellowed out the spiritual "Wade in the Water" with particular emphasis on "God's going to trouble these waters." The wild glee and grin on Jefferts-Schori face made her look, well, let's say she did not look collected.

But worse was yet to come. Four ecumenical leaders took their place. Rabbi Gutow prayed a humanistic prayer using the thought of a Middle Ages mystic, Moses Maimonides. "Do your best," he intoned, "to walk as God as God wants you to walk."

The Anglican primate of Canada, Archbishop Hiltz, asked God to shower grace upon Michael. An Islamic leader, Dr. Alsanousi asked God to help us understand the Holy Quran. Should I repeat that? Yes, he asked God to help us understand the Holy Quran and then went into long sentences that I assume were Arabic and were not listed in the program. Who knows what he said? I don't. A forgettable Moravian prayer ended the ecumenical portion, leaving the question hanging in the air, Where was the Roman Catholic Church? I for one really missed them. Michael Curry warmly embraced the Islamic leader and then moved rapidly over to the altar.

Reading of the scriptures followed. The gospel was not read in English and the language was not even shown the respect of identification in the program. People were trying to guess what language it was; today we never heard the Gospel read in English. Whatever happened to Cranmer's directive of the liturgy in a language "understanded of the people"?

With the accompaniment of more drumming, Curry ascended into the pulpit. He seemed ill at ease and for an unexplained reason, thanked Dick Schori first and next Katharine Jefferts-Schori at the beginning of the sermon. He evoked God's blessing on the entire human race. Then, I do not make this up, he quoted from the Muppet's Kermit the frog and said, "It ain't easy being green." He built on this by saying "It ain't easy being a human." Soon he ambled into the theme of the day, "Don't worry, be happy."

Next Curry cited Acts 17:6 and used the phrase that the church is to "turn the world upside-down." Jesus came to "found a movement" and "continue a movement." Jesus received this movement from Moses. "Jesus is about turning the world upside-down." His conclusion was, "That's what can lift up the church."

Building on the rapid tempo set by the many drumming experiences from the service, Curry's rapid rhetoric caused microphones to echo and make people look confused. He continued with this one world strain of thought. The church should be about "racial reconciliation and evangelism." We join hands with everybody, Christians, other religions, agnostics, and we do this for the Earth. Curry ended with a long story about his parents taking communion in a white Episcopal Church and hence making the church integrated.

He vociferously proclaimed, "We are God's children, all of us, no matter what our race and religion. We God's baptized children, all of us."

Then he ended the sermon, "Don't worry, be happy!" He turned and ran out of the pulpit to the accompaniment of applause.

For the Eucharist, Curry used a liturgy not from the Book of Common Prayer. The orthodox theology of Jesus as the Savior and Redeemer of the world was deleted and become twisted into "Jesus the holy child of God." The dismissal of Jesus's sacrificial role seemed normal in this odd setting of the bizarre mixture of all religions.

In the Eucharistic prayer, Curry continued his massive changes when he destroyed the scripture from Matthew 26:28. Curry proudly proclaimed that the Lord's blood of the New Covenant was poured out for "all." The Bible reads that the New Covenant is for "many" and the Book of Common Prayer faithfully renders this the same. No, Curry has decided that this is to read "all" without explaining this change.

The service ended with the hymn "Lift Every Voice and Sing" accompanied by drums. Curry met people out front as people mobbed in to shake his hand.

So what can we say? On All Saints Day, 1552, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, introduced the reformed Book of Common Prayer that formed the Anglican Communion. On All Saints Day, 2015, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, supported by the Episcopal hierarchy, destroyed our distinctive Anglican workshop.

Thomas Cranmer and other Anglican leaders had intended the liturgy as a faithful response to the presence of Jesus Christ. They worked to form a liturgy that was intentionally not magical and superstitious. Today, Nov 1, 2015, the Cathedral congregation watched the performance by a distant and strange power done by the so-called elite, a form of magical leadership strongly repudiated by the founders of the Anglican Communion. Before the founding of the Anglican Communion, church services had become panoplies of superstitions and magic or even occult rituals. Today the Cathedral hosted many rituals that they would call superstition or worse.

An example from the Episcopal Church history might help clarify what has happened in this denomination. When the 20th century Episcopal theologian Charles Price, Preacher to Harvard, was asked whether the Memorial Chapel should stay under Protestant leadership or be led by an ecumenical group, he strongly advocated for only Protestant guidance. He supported his belief by saying, "Everybody's dog is nobody's dog." Price meant that the dog needs a bond of love with its master. The dog becomes wild and dangerous without the bond of love. Likewise, Christian's devotion to one Lord Jesus Christ builds a bond of love that allows our redemption in this world and carries us into the eternal Kingdom of God.

Yet today under Curry's leadership, nobody's dog is here. No one knows what powers and principalities Curry evoked today. Everybody's Cathedral became nobody's Cathedral. Everybody's theology became nobody's theology. By the end of this service without any message of the great deliverance we have through Jesus Christ's sacrifice, death and resurrection, the waiting people were left violated and alone as nobody's people. We had lost Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer.

Curry's only consolation to us was a message from pop music. "Don't worry, be happy." Almost needless to say, temptations abounded on Nov 1, 2015 at this installation. Every bizarre thought and practice was invited into this formerly Christian Cathedral. The Episcopal Church now dwells under a shadow of great desolation.

Bishop Curry's sermon at his installation: http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2015/11/01/video-currys-sermon-at-installation-of-the-27th-presiding-bishop/

Sarah Frances Ives holds a Ph.D. in church history. She is resident in the Diocese of Washington and a regular contributor to VOL

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