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Episcopal Presiding Bishop gets bully pulpit at royal wedding; and he uses it

Episcopal Presiding Bishop gets bully pulpit at royal wedding; and he uses it
Brings the Jesus Movement to Windsor Castle

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
May 19, 2018

It didn't take long for the Episcopal Presiding Bishop to revert to his black heritage in his thirteen-and-a-half minute long sermon at royal wedding of the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, himself, a descendant of American slaves, initially quoted two verses from the Song of Solomon 8:6-7 and then immediately launched into quoting -- from memory -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world. Love is the only way."

King originally preached this during a sermon entitled "Loving Your Enemies" when the young, not yet-30-year-old was pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.

In trying to explain the power of love, the Presiding Bishop said: "Now the power of love is demonstrated by the fact that we're all here. Two young people fell in love, and we all showed up!"

About 600 invited guests showed up to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding which was held at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, a much smaller and more intimate venue than Westminster Abbey, which seats 1,800 and which was the site of Prince William's 2011 marriage to Catherine Middleton. The small Windsor chapel was also the setting for Harry's uncle, Prince Edward's wedding to Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999; the blessing of Harry's father Prince Charles' civil marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005. It will also be the site of the upcoming wedding of Harry's cousin, Princess Eugenie to Jack Brooksbank in October. Prince Harry's namesake Henry VIII is also buried there.

Presiding Bishop Curry continued weaving into his sermon his overarching primatial theme of The Jesus Movement: "Someone once said that Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in all of human history. A movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world. And a movement mandating people to live that love. And in so doing, to change not only their lives, but the very life of the world itself. I'm talking about some power. Real power. Power to change the world."


Then he dropped the shocker to his captive royal audience and the stiff upper lipped jaws dropped in response as he drifted into the fiery preaching of the social gospel, while straying into politics.

"And if you don't believe me, well, there were some old slaves in America's Antebellum South, who explained the dynamic power of love and why it has the power to transform," he said. "They explained it this way -- they sang a spiritual, even in the midst of their captivity. It's one that says: "There is a balm in Gilead..."'

The Queen and Prince Philip were tight-lipped ... the princely groom was blank-faced, while his biracial bride looked adoringly at the black American Episcopal bishop as he recited the Negro spiritual ...

Bishop Curry's sermon continued with such power and force that his voice echoed off the 14th century Gothic walls, his arms flailing.

"Love is not selfish and self-centered. Love can be sacrificial. And in so doing, becomes redemptive. And that way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love, changes lives. And it can change this world. If you don't believe me, just stop and think, or imagine. Think, and imagine," he thundered, his voice bouncing off of the stone walls. "Well, think and imagine a world where love is the way ... Imagine our homes and families when love is the way ... Imagine neighborhoods and communities when love is the way ... Imagine our governments and nations when love is the way. Imagine business and commerce when love is the way ... Imagine this tired old world when love is the way ..."

Elton John grimaced ... the Dean of Windsor, David Conner, doesn't move a muscle, it's almost as if he is holding his breath ...

"When love is the way, unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive ... When love is the way, then no child would go to bed hungry in this world ever again ... When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook ... When love is the way, poverty would become history ... When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary ..."

The bride's black American mother, Doria Ragland, gently nodded in agreement. She may have been one of the few royal wedding guests who was engaged in the Presiding Bishop's sermon. Others looked away, fiddled with their programs, or squirmed in their seats. Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice were bemused ...

"When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields down by the riverside to study war no more ... When love is the way, there's plenty good room. Plenty good room. For all of God's children ... And when love is the way, we actually treat each other -- well, like we're actually family ... When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all, and we are brothers and sisters. Children of God. My brothers and sisters, that's a new heaven, a new earth, a new world. A new human family," Bishop Curry continued.

Princess Anne's daughter, a pregnant Zara Phillips Tindall, went slack-jawed as did Prince Charles' wife, the Duchess of Cornwall. Jack Brooksbank, who is slated to become a part of the Royal Family when he ties the knot with Princess Eugenie, cracked a smile.

Bishop Curry was losing his audience with his fiery style of black preaching. He was referencing events that the British aristocracy have no direct historical connection to -- American slavery, Martin Luther King, Negro spirituals. The African-American preacher also mentioned ancient and past events which have no spiritual connection to a wedding while weaving the discovery and harnessing of fire, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, and the Industrial Revolution in his sermon.

The bride and groom were losing focus. They started playing with their intertwined fingers. Other wedding guests looked down or around taking in the elements of the chapel and not towards the brightly dressed figure in motion up front, some thumbed their wedding programs.

Continuing, he said: "Fire makes it possible for us to text and Tweet and email and Instagram and Facebook and socially be dysfunctional with each other!"

This brought a polite chuckle from the assembly anxious to get on to hearing the marriage vows of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Just as Michael Curry started his sermon with referencing Martin Luther King, he ended his remarks the same way: "Dr. King was right," he said. "We must discover love. The redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world."

The Presiding Bishop's wedding sermon may not have been a direct hit with the Royal Family, but he was a hit with the British press and the Internet.


British headlines screamed: Fiery US bishop brings American flair to royal wedding (Bristol Herald Courier); "The preacher is doing 50 in a 30 zone and it's brilliant." (BBC Tweet); Preacher Michael Bruce Curry steals the show at Royal Wedding with 'FIRE' sermon (YAHOO! News-UK); The wedding of the future! Michael Curry Read His Epic Royal Wedding Sermon Off an iPad (Town & Country); US minister Michael Curry captures world's attention with powerful royal wedding sermon (The Guardian); Bishop Michael Curry electrified the royal wedding with a moving sermon (Harper's Bazaar); Who is Michael Curry, the royal wedding preacher who stole the show at the ceremony? (The Telegraph); Royal family's reactions to Bishop Michael Curry's show-stealing appearance (METRO); US bishop becomes break-out star of the show: Energizing preacher raises eyebrows and sets social media alight with a very different Royal wedding sermon (Daily Mail); and #Blackroyalwedding: The choir, the cellist and Michael Curry (BBC).

In the United States, headlines read: Royal wedding preacher Presiding Bishop Michael Curry shares his love of Jesus with the world (Episcopal News Service); Love is Power (Episcopal Cafe); Royal wedding sermon from Bishop Michael Curry draws tears at Meghan Markle's high school (Los Angeles Times); Most Rev. Michael Curry gives stirring royal wedding sermon on power of love (CBS); 'There's power in love': The fiery sermon at the royal wedding by the Episcopal Church's Michael Curry (Washington Post); Royal wedding 2018: Black bishop makes history, mentions slavery in American-style sermon (USA Today); Bishop Curry royal wedding sermon: 'Imagine a world where love is the way' (ABC News); Bishop Curry quotes Martin Luther King in Rousing Royal Wedding Sermon (Huffington Post); Most Rev. Michael Curry gives stirring royal wedding sermon on power of love (CBS); 'There's power in love': The fiery sermon at the royal wedding by the Episcopal Church's Michael Curry (Washington Post); and Centuries of tradition seemed to peel away as Bishop Michael Curry spoke to the crowd of aristocrats in the cadence of the black American church (New York Times).

Magazine coverage included: Royal wedding preacher Rev. Michael Curry delivered a powerful sermon that referenced MLK Jr. and slavery at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan (TIME); On Love -- and Fire -- in Windsor (The Living Church); The Internet Is Raving Over Bishop Michael Curry's Royal Wedding Sermon (TIME); Bishop Michael Curry electrified the royal wedding with a moving sermon (Harper's Bazaar); The Royal wedding: How it preached the gospel to the world (Christian Today); Royal Wedding Sermon Focuses on 'Generous Love' (Christian Post); and Bishop Michael Curry brings his own style to royal wedding ceremony (CBS).

Worldwide coverage spans the globe: Pastor Curry spices up royal wedding with power of love (AFR); Royal Wedding: US Bishop Michael Curry steals the show with enthusiastic sermon (NEWS.com-au); The show-stopping Bishop who captured the world's attention at the royal wedding has spoken out about the "contagious" sense of love in St George's chapel (NEWS.com.au); and Bishop Michael Curry of the Episcopal Church in the U.S. delivered an impassioned sermon at the wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry (Global News Canada).

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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