NEW YORK — The Episcopal Church, whose history is entwined with the founding of the United States, is installing its first black national leader this weekend.

Presiding Bishop-elect Michael Curry, who comes to the job after nearly 15 years leading the Diocese of North Carolina, was elected last summer to succeed Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman leader of the church. Her nine-year term ends Sunday, when Curry formally steps in, during a ceremony at the Washington National Cathedral.

Curry takes leadership of the New York-based denomination after years of membership losses and amid ongoing tensions among fellow Anglicans over Episcopal support for gay rights and same-sex marriage. His installation also comes at a time of renewed national attention to racism, after the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the massacre of nine black congregants at a Charleston, South Carolina, church.

Curry, 62, who has two daughters with his wife Sharon, recently spoke with The Associated Press about religion, social change and his hopes for the nearly 1.9 million Episcopalians.

Curry was born in Chicago and raised in Buffalo, N.Y., where his father, the late Rev. Kenneth Curry, was rector of an important African-American parish.

He earned a master’s degree from Yale Divinity School, and then served parishes in North Carolina, Ohio, and Maryland, before he was elected bishop of North Carolina in 2000.


Curry cites two key role models:

The first, Verna Dozier, was a high school English teacher who became a highly sought after lay religious educator and speaker in the church starting in the 1950s. Her talks were collected in the book “The Dream of God.”

“She taught Episcopalians to read the Bible,” Curry said.

The second is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor and author of “The Cost of Discipleship,” who resisted the Nazis, helped rescue Jews and was executed in a concentration camp.

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