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US Episcopal Church installs first black leader

BALTIMORE — Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who was installed Sunday as the first black leader of the US Episcopal Church, urged Episcopalians to evangelize by crossing divides of race, education, and wealth.

Curry used the example of his own mother being given Communion at a white Episcopal parish before desegregation, and how that act persuaded his father to join the denomination, and eventually become a priest.

‘‘God has not given up on the world and God is not finished with the Episcopal Church yet,’’ Curry said, during a joyous ceremony in the Washington National Cathedral.

Curry, 62, succeeds Katharine Jefferts Schori, who was the first woman in the job and is ending her nine-year term. He served about 15 years as leader of the Diocese of North Carolina before he was overwhelmingly elected last summer to the top church post. He grew up in Buffalo, and earned degrees from Hobart College in Geneva, N.Y., and Yale Divinity School.

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The New York-based denomination was the church of many Founding Fathers and has about 1.9 million members. Episcopalians are struggling with shrinking membership and ongoing tensions with fellow Anglicans around the world over the Episcopal support for gay marriage.

Curry will represent the US church in January, at a meeting of national Anglican leaders addressing the splits in their fellowship.

As the ceremony began Sunday, Curry rapped on the cathedral door with a wooden staff — a custom that symbolizes the ushering of a new leader into its halls, both physical and metaphorical. Jefferts Schori passed her staff to Curry, transferring the responsibility of leadership. Those assembled in the cathedral erupted in cheers.

Curry has said he hopes to raise visibility of the church in ‘‘positive and genuine ways’’ and focus on recruiting newcomers to the order.

Associated Press