Episcopal Revival

Curry Brings “Way of Love” to Northern Michigan Episcopalians

on December 3, 2019

Episcopalians in one of the denomination’s smallest U.S. dioceses were visited earlier this autumn for a revival featuring Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

Curry’s fervent preaching style juxtaposed with the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan’s liturgy emphasizing Native American spirituality and theologically progressive themes for the October 13 event on the campus of Northern Michigan University in Marquette.

The revival, “The Way of Love Up North,” was jointly hosted with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s Northern Great Lakes Synod.

Billed as “a gathering for renewal and celebration of Love” the event partly recalled Curry’s celebrated homily from the 2018 wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, albeit with a smaller audience estimated Monday by a diocesan spokesperson of between 400 and 500 persons. This estimate is significantly higher than a late September claim on Facebook that 125 tickets were distributed. For comparison, the diocese reported a total average Sunday attendance of 394 in 2018, down nearly 40 percent during the past decade.

Tibetan prayer flags were pinned to the altar table holding the communion bread. Nature imagery permeated the service liturgy, beginning with a blessing of water done in the name of the “Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer,” a modalist substitution for the conventional “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Rather than customary scripture readings, participants heard the poem “The Creation” by American author and civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson. The gospel reading was the Magnificat, adapted from A New Zealand Prayer Book.

In his sermon, Curry preached that love looks like “death to self,” rising to a “true self” and giving to others. Paraphrasing the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 6, Curry preached that “those who have died to self, rise in newness of life.”

“When this love inspires – when this unselfish, sacrificial way of love that is the way of love that baptism is trying to teach us about – this way of love and life becomes our way of life and we don’t see each other through ordinary eyes anymore. We begin to look at each other the way God looks at us,” Curry preached. The love of Christ inspires, guides and “leads us to a new creation.”

Love was the predominant theme of Curry’s message, seen in 1 John chapter 4 verses 7-10.

“God is love,” he said. “Love makes room and space for the other to be. Love says let there be something besides me.”

“As long as love just remains a sentiment – a feeling – everything I just said isn’t true. But when love moves from mere sentiment to commitment, to a deepened relationship, then we are talking about dynamite.”

Curry’s emphasis on Christ as a reconciling agent was elevated over God’s other characteristics, including holiness and wrath. The presiding bishop proposed that “Jesus didn’t give his life to appease an angry God – that is not good theology. He didn’t die for that, he died because he loves.”

“We can be a new creation, and the way to that new creation is the way of love. If you cannot preach like Peter, don’t worry about it. If you cannot pray like Paul, just tell the love of Jesus: how he died to save us all,” Curry said, moving the congregation into singing “There is a balm in Gilead.”

Following the sermon, participants read an “Affirmation of Faith” in place of the Nicene Creed:

“We believe that God is present in the darkness before dawn; in the waiting and uncertainty where fear and courage join hands, conflict and caring link arms, and the sun rises over barbed wire.

We believe in a with-us God who sits down in our midst to share our humanity.

We affirm a faith that takes us beyond the safe place: into action, into vulnerability and into the streets.

We commit ourselves to work for change and put ourselves on the line; to bear responsibility, take risks, live powerfully and face humiliation; to stand with those on the edge; to choose life and be used by the spirit for God’s new community of hope. Amen.”

The cross and the bodily resurrection of Christ went unmentioned in the liturgy, with “the fountain of resurrection” vaguely referenced during the blessing of the water earlier in the service.

Once again, A New Zealand Prayer Book was adapted in place of the customary Lord’s Prayer:

“Eternal Spirit,
Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven:

The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom
sustain our hope and come on earth.

With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and testing, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.

For you reign in the glory of the power that is love,
now and forever. Amen.”

The Episcopal and Lutheran bishops presiding over the service indicated “all are welcome” to the communion table, not requiring baptism or even a profession of belief in Christ.

Curry’s sermon can be viewed in its entirety here.

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  1. Comment by Nick Thomas on December 3, 2019 at 9:41 am

    Was the Buddhist–Episcopal priest from Marquette there?

  2. Comment by Jeffrey Walton on December 3, 2019 at 10:11 am

    Good question. As of spring 2019 he was moving on, so possibly he has already departed the diocese: https://juicyecumenism.com/2019/04/25/episcopalian-buddhist-bishop/

  3. Comment by Lee D. Cary on December 3, 2019 at 11:23 am

    Curry is presiding over the demise of the Episcopal Church.

  4. Comment by Steve on December 3, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    Wow.. got to love that Lords Prayer rewrite. What brilliant theology. ‘In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us’ instead of ‘forgive us our sins?’ I am getting sick of people thinking Curry is orthodox because of his evangelical cadence. That guy is Karl Marx, Carl Sagan and Carl Jung all at the same time….just masks it with speech asthetics.

  5. Comment by David on December 4, 2019 at 10:21 am

    The “Lord’s prayer” was likely given as an example of a prayer rather than something to be repeated exactly. Note that this prayer is not offered “in the name of Jesus” or other words to that effect.

    An alternative wording is “forgive us our debts…” As a young child who was frequently admonished not the dent the living room furniture, I took this to mean “forgive us our dents.”

  6. Comment by Wm. "Bill" Paul on December 4, 2019 at 7:45 pm

    The liturgy used also rewrites Genesis 1 and offers this as part of ‘The Hebrew Scriptures,’ account of The Creation: ” And God stepped out on space and he looked around and said…I’m lonely…I’ll make me a world.”
    Uh huh. Check it out. How theological illiterate is that? Disastrously wrong on so many levels. I lost a leading lay person over stuff like this and at consecrations ..smudging ceremonies, dancers in loin cloths….equating Jesus’ baptism with ours….and on and on.

  7. Comment by Mike on December 5, 2019 at 4:29 pm

    Like this is really going to help rebuild a dying diocese, or denomination, for that matter.

  8. Comment by Bruce Davies on December 6, 2019 at 7:33 pm

    Indeed. Without the Resurrection, there is nothing there for Christians. It’s why we go to church, it’s why we believe in life after death and why we try to live a godly life. Without this, Christian churches have nothing to offer. The Episcopalians have led this progressive neutering of their faith and are paying the price.

  9. Comment by Maureen W on December 6, 2019 at 8:06 pm

    While Jesus fasted and remained in the desert and he was at his weakest, the devil tempted him. Each time he responded, “It is written…” God’s word is powerful all by itself. I try to always remember that.

  10. Comment by John Schuh on December 7, 2019 at 1:51 am

    As you pray, so do you believe? When you trivialize your worship, you tend to look as your believes as something not serious either. I am Catholic but was surprised to attend a Southern Baptist communion service and was surprised how reverently they received. their bread and juice. Thought it odd though they did not use wine since they were so oriented to the literal word of the New Testament.

  11. Comment by Jim Dickson on December 7, 2019 at 9:00 am

    I am a Bible believing evangelical Episcopalian who heard Bishop Curry at the Appleton revival in November. The Greatest Commandment is to love God and love your neighbor. Stop bashing others. My plea is for believers to look past the spec in the eye of others and unite to defeat the common foe as did the Founding Fathers. United we stand; divided we fall. We are majoring on the minors. See the image of God in everyone and feed it with God’s truth. Bishop Curry was a powerful voice for good in this area.

  12. Comment by Donald on December 7, 2019 at 10:22 am

    Is the 394 “total attendance” figure for the whole diocese? I have trouble believing there are that many Episcopalians regularly attending the service at a single Episcopalian church.

  13. Comment by Jeffrey Walton on December 9, 2019 at 10:24 am

    Yes, 394 is the total 2018 average Sunday attendance for the entire diocese of Northern Michigan. Setting aside special mission districts including Navajo Missions and a few tiny overseas dioceses, it is the smallest domestic diocese by attendance in the denomination.

  14. Comment by John Smith on December 8, 2019 at 5:30 am

    I just feel sad. Is this all they have for God? Perhaps I should also feel guilty. Why do people today settle for so little?

  15. Comment by ol' Bob on December 8, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    There is a certain conceit in the assumption that one can better express the Faith Once Delivered than the Saints who, inspired by God, delivered it.

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