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Michael Curry Crowing as he makes the Morning Show Circuit

Michael Curry Crowing as he makes the Morning Show Circuit
Goes off script in royal sermon to deliver his trilogy of black theology, liberation theology and feminist theology

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
May 25, 2018

The headlines that Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is making following his explosive sermon at the Duke and Duchess of Sussex wedding are far from over. He admitted on the American network morning news and talk show circuit that he had to submit his sermon to the royal powers-that-be before the wedding.

But the draft he submitted for royal approval is not the same sermon he actually preached before the Queen and the House of Windsor at Prince Harry's wedding.

"I did provide a copy of the manuscript about a week before I think it was," the Presiding Bishop told Robin Roberts on Good Morning America. "They were basically aware of the basic outline and what was in it. They were very gracious."

"Yet, that whole service had all of the permissions," the American bishop explained on the TODAY show. "Nothing would have happened in there without some sense the blessings and permissions."

"I only deviated slightly," Bishop Curry confessed on Good Morning America.

Bronte Coy, the entertainment reporter for News Corp in Australia picked up on the fact that Michael Curry "deviated" from his previously submitted printed text.

"You can read the text of Michael Curry's sermon below, although he did go a little off script," Ms. Coy wrote on news.com.au the online News Corp website which covers politics and pop culture.

The Slate too, mentioned that the American bishop went off script.

"The official transcript of Curry's sermon does not include the mention of slavery, suggesting he was riffing just a bit -- not unusual for a preacher, but notable considering Curry riffed in the direction of referencing slavery in front of the Queen, not to mention hundreds of wealthy British dignitaries, some of whose family fortunes surely were built on the backs of enslaved people," Ruth Graham wrote.

Other media outlets seemed to have ignored the differences between the video replay of the sermon and its ENS transcript with the prewedding copy of Bishop Curry's royal wedding sermon they had in hand.


Did Michael Curry go a "little off script" or riff "just a bit?" Yes, he did. The version of the Royal Wedding sermon entitled The Power of Love, based upon the Song of Solomon 8:6-7 was given out to the British press prior to the wedding and the transcription of Bishop Curry's actual sermon at the wedding that the Episcopal News Service posted are different. The original "approved" sermon text had more than 500 fewer words and there was no direct mention of slaves, which had the Internet and the news media all abuzz thus making worldwide headlines.

There was also no mention of "Two young people fell in love, and we all showed up!" No mention of Jesus walking on the water and Bishop Curry taking an airplane to fly over the water to England. No mention of carriages, cars and automobiles. No mention of "Fire makes it possible for us to text and Tweet and email and Instagram and Facebook and socially be dysfunctional with each other!" No mention of "Plenty good room. For all of God's children." No mention of ...

Bishop Curry considered all these additions to his pre-approved royal sermon outline as "slight deviations."

Bishop Curry comes from a long line of black preachers. He father was an Episcopal priest, his grandfather was black Baptist preacher, and his great-grandfather was a minister of the Gospel, too, but his denominational roots are lost to history. The 65-year-old is to celebrate his 40th anniversary to his ordination to the priesthood in December. Fr. Curry was ordained on Dec. 1, 1978 by black Bishop John Burgess (XII Massachusetts) and was consecrated the XI Bishop of North Carolina in 2000. In 2015, he became the first black Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, following on the heels of Kathrine Jefferts Schori, the first woman presiding bishop.

"You can't get a preacher ..." he said, losing his train of thought on Good Morning America. "... they're going to deviate somewhere."


Saturday Night Live picked on the royal sermon in a post-wedding spoof where Kenan Thompson played the Presiding Bishop. He had a remarkable strikingly likeness to Michael Curry, complete with his hair, beard, glasses and choir vestments with tippet.

"They told me I had five minutes, but the good Lord multiplied it into a cool 16," explained 'Bishop Kenan Curry'. "Oh, it was tough man, real tough. I preached and I testified and I yelled while 500 stuffy English people looked at me like I was a fart in an elevator."

"It was a great likeness," the real Bishop Curry said on Good Morning America. "I couldn't believe they pulled that off just in a matter of hours."

"It's brilliant. It's just brilliant." he told the TODAY hosts. "The Lord multiplied. He can do it now and we'd be here for a good while."

Savannah Guthrie told Bishop Curry that being on Saturday Night Live was a "sign that he made it."

"Oh, that is priceless," the real bishop said on The View after again viewing the Saturday Night Live skit. "I love it."

Whoopie Goldberg over on The View said that Kenan Thomson, who spoofed Bishop Curry, also plays her.


The Presiding Bishop explained that when the call first came to his office from Lambeth Palace, he did not believe it. He originally thought it was an April Fools trick.

"It was a decision of the couple but they were in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury (Justin Welby) and the Dean of St. George's (David Conner), and I'm sure others as well. But once they made their decision I got a phone call," he said. "I didn't believe it. A member of my staff called and said they would like me to preach at the royal wedding. I said: 'Get out of here! It's April Fools, you have got to be kidding me.'"

Once the Presiding Bishop was convinced that the call from Lambeth Palace was real, he placed a call to Justin Welby for the details.

"I called him back and said 'I really don't believe it now'" he explained on TODAY. "Then I couldn't say anything to anybody for almost two months."

Over on The View, Whoopie Goldberg explained that The Episcopal Church was the American version of the Church of England.

"Yeah, that's us," Bishop Curry affirmed.

When asked about how he felt about preaching in front of the Queen of England, he admitted to being nervous.

"I must admit to being a little bit nervous at first in the very beginning. No question about that," he said on TODAY. "But after that it turned into a church."

No matter if Bishop Curry was on Good Morning America, the View or TODAY, he never deviated from his love theme which he said was given to him by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in planning their special day. They were the ones who chose the Song of Solomon passage for their sermon Scripture text which Bishop Curry calls "love poetry."

"They selected the Scripture passage, I didn't select that," the Presiding Bishop explained on The View. "They had preached the sermon even before I opened my mouth."

"I was speaking to a young couple who were in love," he explained. "They were so passionately in love you could see it."

"You could tell these two people actually loved each other," Bishop Curry explained on The View. "You know what, the love they have for each other is what brought all the various worlds together."

While on Good Morning America he said: "Here is the thing about it. The love between the royal couple was so powerful -- not only did we all show up -- but it brought all these different worlds together."

"It brought different nationalities, different ethnicities, different religious traditions; people of all stripes and types; people with different political persuasions," he fleshed out. "Actually, for a moment we were actually together organized around love."

"Their love was a sign of God's love and what that can do in our lives," he continued. "So it brought our African heritage, our British heritage, our American heritage. I'm an Episcopalian, part of the Church of England, and I fit in."


Just after returning from England, the Presiding Bishop appeared Tuesday morning on Good Morning America, ABC's morning news show; The View, ABC's morning liberal feminist talk show; and TODAY, NBC's morning news show. He was interviewed by Robin Roberts, who is a black lesbian, on Good Morning America; and by Meghan McCain, Sunny Hostin, Joy Behar, and Whoppie Goldberg on The View. Goldberg is known for her off color humor and Behar infamously accused Vice President Mike Pence of being mentally ill because he prays to Jesus. She eventually apologized. Hodi Kotb, Savannah Guthrie, Craig Melvin and Keir Simmons did the honors at TODAY. Melvin is the black Weekend TODAY anchor and Simmons is the British foreign correspondent for NBC News. Saturday Night Live is also in the NBC stable as a live television variety show known for spoofing current events, culture and politics.

The Presiding Bishop had a group of nine Episcopal groupies, including three priests, with him at Good Morning America, which he called his Amen Corner whenever the camera panned them. One priest was carrying an Episcopal Church sign featuring the Episcopal Church Center's 815 Second Avenue address.

TODAY called its Michael Curry segment "The Sermon Heard Around the World." Good Morning America on-screen display read: "Bishop Steals Show at Royal Wedding." The View called Michael Curry "The breakout star of the wedding."

"I don't know about that, but it's nice." Bishop Curry demurred. "I hope that sermon helped us find a way to a better world."

"Such a powerful message you had about love," Good Morning America's Robin Roberts noted. "You also talked about slavery and Martin Luther King. Why was that so important to you, Sir?"

Bishop Curry sidestepped the direct question and launched into his litany of love: "It was important because the love the couple has that was obvious. You could look into their faces and see these two people are in love. That love was a reflection of a greater love ..."


When asked how he thought his British audience was receiving his sermon, he said he could see it in their acceptance in the eyes.

"I am the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church," Michael Curry explained on The View. "Episcopalians are not noted for getting up and shouting and all that kind of stuff."

"I have learned to see an 'Amen" in an eye," he continued. "I could see their eyes, and there were 'Amens' in the eyes.

Over on the TODAY show set he said: "I've been doing this for a long time and Episcopalians aren't known for being loud and ruckus in church. But I have learned to be able to hear an 'Amen' by looking in their eyes.

"I was looking in the eyes of the people who were there and they were doing quiet, British 'Amens,'" he revealed. "I don't know about the Queen."


The View celebrated the blackness of the royal wedding, which highlighted a biracial bride -- Meghan Markle; her black mother -- Doria Ragland; the black Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preaching; the Queen's personal black chaplain -- Rose Hudson-Wilkin, who is the most senior black woman priest in England; black teen classical cellist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason; and the black Kingdom Gospel Choir singing American civil rights tunes.

"There's a lot of color throbbing through there," Whoopie Goldberg said. "It's like discovering that Downtown Julie Brown was English. White people, black people, nobody knew there were black people in England."

In the runup to Bishop Curry's visit to The View, the hosts discussed the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

"A lot of Americans got up early Saturday morning to watch the wedding of Meghan and Harry," Whoopie Goldberg prefaced. "They broke the mold in a bunch of different ways -- a black princess now."

"It's just heart-warming to see, in this world we're living in right now, there is so much bigotry, so much racism ... everybody has to be white ..." said Joy Behar on the take up. "To see this beautiful couple, at the highest level of England's snob society, pull this off."

"It was so authentic and real. It was a fairytale," Sunny Hostin chimed in. "I thought what was so interesting was the way they melded the English history and the African-American history. This was a very black wedding ..."

Bishop Curry admitted that he did not get an opportunity to speak with Queen Elizabeth II.

"You nod to the Queen," he explained on The View. "If she speaks to you, you speak back. We nodded to each other."


Following the wedding Episcopal News Service transcribed Bishop Curry's live sermon word-for-word. It is posted at https://www.episcopalnewsservice.org/2018/05/19/video-text-presiding-bishops-royal-wedding-sermon/

The news media which picked up on the updated transcription includes: NPR, the Guardian, the New York Times, CBS, Vanity Fair, the BBC, CNN, Christian Today, Harper's Bazaar; Town & Country magazine, TIME, the Telegraph, the Express, FOX, African Seer, VOX, New York News, the New Republic, the Rappler, and other news agencies.

Media outlets posting or referring to the original sermon text include: The Slate, the Mirror, YAHOO! Lifestyle, the Standard, Buzz Feed, the Metro, Church Leaders, Issuu, Premier Christianity, Country Living, and Kenya Today.

Bishop Curry's original approved, unedited, unchanged sermon draft can be found at: https://issuu.com/founders/docs/bishop_michael_curry_s_royal_weddin

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

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