Presiding bishop returns from surgery, chairs Executive Council meeting confronting violence, division, change

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, recovering from a September 20, 2023, surgery, returned as chair of Executive Council on October 25, 2023, at its meeting this week, after missing its last meeting in June. In his opening remarks, he said that he was “profoundly grateful” for the overwhelming support and prayers from across the church and beyond.

The October Executive Council Meeting

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

“Thank you is hardly an adequate word, but please receive it in the full spirit: Thank you,” Curry said in the Zoom meeting, which was livestreamed publicly on YouTube.

In the month since his surgery to remove an adrenal gland and a non-cancerous attached mass, “I don’t think that I have ever been prayed for more,” the presiding bishop said. Curry then expanded on the theme of prayer and its importance in a world torn by violence and division – and within an Episcopal Church undergoing profound changes of decline and rebirth.

“Even as we speak, there is conflict, division and great suffering in Israel and Gaza, in Sudan and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Ukraine, Armenia and Haiti,” he said. “Prayer matters and makes a difference. We must pray, for wisdom and moral courage, for world leaders, so that violence does not beget more violence.

“Because violence does not work and violence will not bring about a just and sustainable and enduring peace — shalom, salaam — violence will not get us there.”

Theme of this Executive Council Meeting

His remarks also served to highlight some of the themes of this October 24 to 27, 2023, meeting of Executive Council and the resolutions that its committees will be recommending for final approval at the end of the meeting. Those proposed resolutions include the following:

Council also will consider a resolution to establish a committee to research The Episcopal Church’s past complicity with the practice of forced adoptions by unwed mothers, an era roughly from the end of World War II to the early 1970s. The 80th General Convention first passed a resolution in July 2022 calling attention to the issue.

President Julia Ayala Harris

House of Deputies President Julia Ayala Harris emphasized other focal points of Executive Council’s ongoing work in her opening remarks, including church data that points to both long-term membership decline and new opportunities for discipleship and Christian witness. The Episcopal Church is in a “transitional space,” she said.

“We find ourselves between where we are as a church and where we hope to be, between what is and what will become,” Ayala Harris said. “While the present may feel disordered, God is not done with us yet. New life will emerge, new challenges will greet tomorrow.”

Ayala Harris also alluded briefly to her August 30 letter to the House of Deputies. It revealed she had been the complainant in a disciplinary case against an Episcopal bishop under the church’s Title IV canons [rules], a case that ended with no discipline for the bishop, who denied the allegations.

“If this could happen to the president of the House of Deputies, it could happen to anyone anywhere,” she said. “It’s clear that systemic change is needed, both within our structures and in culture.”

House of Deputies President Julia Ayala Harris speaks October 25 in the online plenary session of Executive Council.
House of Deputies President Julia Ayala Harris speaks October 25 in the online plenary session of Executive Council.

After the close of the investigation, she and Curry each responded by recommending that the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons revisit the Title IV canons, amid growing churchwide scrutiny of several cases involving bishops. After the commission’s latest meeting, earlier this month, it issued a churchwide call for input as it prepares to propose Title IV changes for consideration in June 2024 at the 81st General Convention.

Information about the Executive Council

Curry, as presiding bishop, chairs the Executive Council, which is the church’s governing body between meetings of General Convention. Ayala Harris, as House of Deputies president, typically serves as vice chair, though she chaired Executive Council’s last meeting, held in June 2023 in Providence, Rhode Island, while Curry remained home on doctor-recommended travel restrictions.

This week’s meeting of Executive Council initially was planned to take place in person in Panama City, Panama, but it was moved online to accommodate Curry’s recovery from surgery.

Executive Council’s other 38 voting members are a mix of bishops, other clergy and lay leaders. Twenty are elected by General Convention to staggered six-year terms – or 10 new members every three years. The Episcopal Church’s nine provinces elect the other 18 to six-year terms, also staggered. Meetings typically are held three times a year.

Committees began meeting October 24, and the first plenary session was held Octiber 25. The second half of the opening plenary was set aside for a discussion of the written norms and expectations that the governing body’s members agreed in June to follow. Ayala Harris noted that those norms include treating each other with respect, challenging ideas rather than individuals, and assuming positive intent in fellow members words and actions.

The members’ discussion, however, was moved into closed session with little explanation. After nearly an hour, the plenary adjourned without Executive Council appearing again on the meeting’s public livestream.

—David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at

Episcopal Church Shield

Executive Council 

The Executive Council of The Episcopal Church is an elected body of bishops, priests, deacons, and lay leaders. In the three years between General Conventions, the group meets quarterly. Executive Council is tasked with carrying out programs and policies adopted by General Convention and overseeing the ministry and mission of The Episcopal Church.  

The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer: Worshiping God, living in community, reaching out to the world.

Church of the Redeemer

Church of the Redeemer: Worshiping God, living in community, and reaching out to the world around us. We are an Episcopal Church serving north King County and south Snohomish County, Washington. As you travel your road, go with friends walking the way of Jesus at Redeemer.

Church of the Redeemer is at 6210 Northeast 181st Street in Kenmore, Washington. The campus is a short distance north of Bothell Way, near the Burke-Gilman Trail. The entrance looks like a gravel driveway. The campus is larger on the inside than it is on the outside. And we managed to hide a large building on the side of a hill that is not easily seen from the street.

The Episcopal Church welcomes you.