Curry Somberly Greets House of Bishops on Eve of Surgery

Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry addresses the House of Bishops from his North Carolina home

By Kirk Petersen

“This is not an easy time,” said Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry September 19, in opening remarks to the House of Bishops’ online business meeting. He was speaking roughly 15 hours before his planned surgery to remove an adrenal gland and associated mass — but that was not the only source of unease.

It is a time of crisis for the House of Bishops. In addition to the health issues of their leader, one of their own has been accused of sexual misconduct by the second-ranking officer of the church. Another recently resigned after allegations of physical and emotional abuse by his ex-wife and adult sons. “It’s not an easy time to be a bishop,” Curry continued, in the cadences of a sermon. “It’s not an easy time to be the church. It’s not an easy time to be a leader in any endeavor. And frankly, it’s not an easy time just to be human.”

Regarding the pending September 20 surgery, he said “I’m thankful that the issues with my heart are being managed and monitored. And that issues with this internal bleeding from this tumor on the right adrenal gland will get addressed with tomorrow’s surgery. I’m going to be fine. Come what may, I’m gonna be fine. Because we have a God and God is real. So God willing, I fully expect, with a short recovery time, to be back full time.”

The church’s Title IV disciplinary process will be a major focus of discussion as the meeting continues through the end of the week. But the online format will allow for less robust discussion than the original plan to spend nearly a week at a resort in the Diocese of the Dominican Republic. The trip was canceled after it became clear Curry would not be able to attend because of pending surgery.

Instead, the bishops are meeting three hours per day for four days, with media coverage limited to a bit more than half of the proceedings. Two attorneys will lead a Title IV presentation on September 20, after which the bishops will separate into virtual rooms for private “table” discussions. Any public statement about the sense of the house is likely to come in the September 22 business session.

When President of the House of Deputies Julia Ayala Harris disclosed August 30 that she had been in Title IV proceedings against a bishop for more than a year, it touched off an uproar. Within days, starting over the Labor Day weekend, more than 50 bishops signed a letter saying “We are angered by and deeply concerned about the perception – or the reality – that bishops get a free pass on behavioral issues.” This led to social media complaints that other bishops had not signed the letter, and calls for retribution against the yet-unidentified bishop.

Then TLC reported on September 5 that the bishop in question was retired Bishop of Oklahoma Ed Konieczny — and the public outcry seemed to end as if a switch had been flipped. Konieczny is Ayala Harris’s former bishop, a member of Curry’s inner circle, and a prominent leader in church governance. It’s one thing to call for the head of an anonymous bishop, and quite another when the bishop turns out to be influential and widely respected.

Konieczny initially was unable to speak on his own behalf because of a pastoral directive that he not discuss the matter publicly. After gaining permission to speak, he issued a statement September 13 denying any sexual misconduct, but shedding little further light on the incident that occurred on the day of Ayala Harris’s election in July 2022.

In the midst of all this, Prince Singh resigned September 8 as bishop provisional of the dioceses of Eastern and Western Michigan. His adult sons publicly accused him of years of physical and emotional abuse in June, and as the weeks passed they raised the stakes by launching a website and denouncing Curry for what they saw as an inadequate response after Curry learned of the allegations in December 2022.

Curry recused himself from the Title IV investigations of both Singh and Konieczny, illustrating the difficulties inherent in disciplinary cases against bishops.


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