The new leader of the Episcopal Church, presiding bishop Michael Curry, is recovering from surgery to remove blood that had pooled beneath his skull, and expects to return to work after a few days’ rest.
On Dec. 6, about a month after his installation, Curry had trouble speaking while visiting a church in Williamsburg, Va. He was taken to a nearby hospital and found to have a subdural hematoma, a collection of blood between the skull and brain. Doctors operated on him Tuesday.
“According to the presiding bishop, his family, and his medical team, the surgery went well, as had been expected,” the church announced afterward on its website. “Bishop Curry is alert and awake, and a full recovery continues to be anticipated.”
A nurse said that because of the subdural hematoma, Curry had some “word-finding difficulty” but should be in “great shape” as soon as the end of the week.
“I will be back preaching like normal, but for the next few days I’ll be taking it easy, and I’ll be just fine in a few days,” Curry said.
Two days before his medical episode, Curry was in California and stopped at the site of the San Bernardino attacks where 14 people died at the hands of a couple the FBI has labeled as terrorists.
The medical setback for the church’s leader comes as the 1.9 million-member faith group released new statistics indicating its continuing slide in membership and participation.
There has been an almost 20 percent drop in active members in the last 10 years and a 25 percent drop in the average Sunday attendance in that same period. More than half of Episcopal parishes — 53 percent — have seen a decline in average Sunday attendance of at least 10 percent in the last five years.
C. Kirk Hadaway, the Episcopal Church’s congregational research officer, said some of the decline could be attributed to records now reflecting the 2012 decision by the Diocese of South Carolina to secede from the denomination.
The Episcopal Church has seen an 18.8 percent drop in overall membership, including churches outside the United States, from 2004 to 2014. U.S. membership dropped 2.7 percent from 2013 to 2014.
“Although the situation in South Carolina exacerbated the losses in 2014, the fact remains that many more existing Episcopal churches declined than grew during the past five years,” Hadaway said. “Although the situation is similar in other mainline denominations and some evangelical bodies, it remains troubling and easy fixes are not possible.”
At his Nov. 1 installation at the Washington National Cathedral, Curry expressed optimism about the future of his denomination.
“God is not finished with this church,” he said. “God has work for us to do. Jesus has shown us the way and we are the Jesus movement, so my brothers and sisters, walk together children, don’t you get weary.”
The church statement said Curry and his family were grateful for the “outpouring of prayers and well wishes” and requested privacy during his recovery.