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Episcopal Church elects first black presiding bishop

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Episcopal Church elected its first African-American presiding bishop, choosing Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina during the denomination's national assembly yesterday.

Curry was elected in a vote by bishops at the Episcopal General Convention, the top legislative body of the church. Curry won among the bishops in a landslide, earning 121 votes. The other three candidates had 21 votes or less. The decision was affirmed on a vote of 800-12 by the House of Deputies, the voting body of clergy and lay participants at the meeting.

Curry will succeed Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who will complete her nine-year term on Nov. 1. She was the first female presiding bishop and the first woman to lead an Anglican national church. The New York-based 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.

"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 said in brief comments as he was introduced to the assembly as presiding bishop-elect. "We are part of the Jesus movement, and nothing can stop the movement of God's love in this world."

Norberto Jones, 65, of Newark, New Jersey, joyously hugged friends after the results were announced, marveling at being alive to see a black U.S. president and black Episcopal presiding bishop.

"This is beautiful," said Jones, a lay deputy and African American. "God works awesome wonders man. We're getting to that point of understanding that it's not about color and culture, but what you bring to the table."

Curry, 62, has been bishop of North Carolina since 2000, leading a diocese of 48,000 church members, 112 congregations and a network of ministries. He will now lead a nearly 1.9 million-member denomination known for its history as the faith home of many of the Founding Fathers and U.S. presidents.

A Chicago native who has two daughters with his wife, Sharon, Curry grew up in Buffalo, New York, and graduated from Hobart College and Yale Divinity School.

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