Two Birmingham Bishops have Transitions Next Week, United Methodists Waiting until 2021

In March 2019, I noted that United Methodists, Roman Catholics, and Episcopalians were all expected to choose new bishops for Birmingham, Alabama in 2020. A year later on March 25, 2020, with the appointment of the fifth bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama, I could report that it was “Two down, One to go.” Now that one will wait until November 2021.

Due to Covid-19, the United Methodist Church had to postpone its General Conference from May 2020 to September 2021. Jurisdictional Conferences that elect and appoint bishops follow General Conferences every four years. So now, the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference is scheduled to meet November 20-21, 2021. Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett will remain bishop of the Birmingham Episcopal Area with oversight of the North Alabama Conference through the end of 2021. (Announcement here.)

Meanwhile, key liturgies marking the transition in leadership for Roman Catholics and Episcopalians will occur next week, though they too will be altered by Covid-19. The incoming Roman Catholic bishop, the Most Reverend Steven J. Racia, will preach at vespers at 5 p.m. on Monday, June 22. The next day at 1:30 p.m. the Most Reverend Thomas Rodi, archbishop of Mobile, will install Racia as Birmingham’s fifth Roman Catholic bishop. Both events will be broadcast on EWTN and streamed online. (Click here for details.) The cathedral states that under the current social distancing conditions it can accommodate about one hundred fifty worshipers, but these will all be invited guests.

The Rev. Dr. Glenda Curry and the Rev. Steven J. Racia

On Saturday, June 26, five blocks away at the Cathedral Church of the Advent, the Reverend Dr. Glenda Curry will be ordained bishop and become bishop coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama. The service will be streamed online. (Click here for details.) The congregation is expected to be much smaller. While North Alabama Catholics resumed public worship with restriction some weeks ago. North Alabama Episcopalians are not yet having public indoor services.

The four other ordinations of bishops in the Episcopal Church this spring have all proceeded with a minimal number of people present. They’ve had about ten, plus perhaps a half dozen musicians located in a portion of the church separate from the rest of the congregation.

At Dr. Curry’s ordination, the Reverend Becca Stevens is expected to preach, but I understand that contrary to hopes last month, the Most Reverend Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, will not be present. After serving six months, as bishop coadjutor, Glenda Curry will become Birmingham’s twelfth Episcopal bishop at the end of the year. An installation liturgy is scheduled for January 9, 2021 at the Advent.

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