Presiding Bishop’s royal wedding sermon on love draws global praise, boosts Episcopal evangelism

By David Paulsen
Posted May 21, 2018
Curry sermon

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle listen to a sermon by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, primate of the Episcopal Church, in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle during their wedding service on May 19. Photo: Reuters

[Episcopal News Service] It’s never polite to upstage the newlyweds, but when the royal couple invited Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to deliver the sermon at their wedding on May 19, they surely knew that the leader of the Episcopal Church was bound to generate headlines of his own.

“The surprise star of Harry and Meghan’s wedding” is how the Washington Post’s headline described Curry.

“There are some things you come to expect from royal weddings,” the Post said. “One thing you don’t expect: That sermon.”

The Post called Curry’s 14-minute sermon a “barnstorming address.” Canada’s CBC called it the “highlight” of the royal wedding. Vox said Curry “stole the show,” adding that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were “all but upstaged” by Curry’s “fiery sermon.” And the U.K. Guardian commentary asserted that Curry’s “royal wedding sermon will go down in history as a moment when the enduring seat of colonialism was brought before the Lord, and questioned in its own house.”

The New York Times described it as a “searing, soaring” sermon about the power of love. “With its repetition and emphasis, his sermon drew upon the devices of black ecclesiastical tradition,” the Times wrote, calling it a “striking contrast” to the bishop of London’s sermon at the 2011 royal wedding.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle during their wedding May 19. Photo: Reuters

The sermon itself never strayed far from the theme of love, even as Curry incorporated references to both the Old Testament and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as black spirituals. The message appeared to resonate with the royal couple, with Prince Harry at one point wiping tears from his cheeks while his bride’s smile widened.

The media attention on Curry’s sermon had been intense since the moment on May 12 that he was announced as preacher.

It was an unexpected choice, given that royal wedding sermons typically are delivered by clergy in the Church of England, which, like the Episcopal Church, is a province of the Anglican Communion. Much of the reaction focused on the fact that Markle is a biracial American actress and on Curry’s status as the Episcopal Church’s the first black presiding bishop.

In the flurry of news stories about Curry leading up to the wedding, he sometimes was mistakenly identified as a “Chicago bishop”– he was born in Chicago but grew up in Buffalo, New York – and confusion about church hierarchy and titles may have played a role in some outlets diminishing Curry slightly, as merely “a black Episcopal priest,” for example.

Many also noted his emphasis on applying the Christian faith and Jesus’ teachings to contemporary social justice issues, part of what Curry often calls the “Jesus Movement.” Curry didn’t shy away from such issues in his sermon, asking those gathered to “imagine a world where love is the way.”

The Most Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, delivers the sermon at the royal wedding. Photo: Reuters

“Imagine our governments and nations when love is the way,” he said. “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. When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields down by the riverside to study war no more.”

As the buzz grew leading up to the ceremony, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby called Curry a “brilliant pastor.” Afterward, Welby, who officiated at the wedding, told Sky News he had spoken to members of the royal family, whose reaction to Curry’s sermon was overwhelmingly positive.

“I think what we saw in that is that preaching is not a past art, that the use of language to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ just blew the place open,” Welby said. “It was fantastic. And you could see people just caught up in it, and excited by it.”

The sermon also captured the imagination of some British tabloid headline writers, who borrowed Curry’s light-hearted line, “Two people fell in love and we all showed up,” for their covers. The Sun even gave Curry the pun-kissed new title of “Frock Star.”

Some of the praise come from unexpected sources. Former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, an atheist, tweeted, “Rev. Michael Curry could almost make me a believer.”

“Still reeling from Rev. Curry,” British TV host Piers Morgan tweeted. “What a guy!”

The sermon even caught the attention of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” which dressed up cast member Kenan Thompson as Curry for a short parody during the “Weekend Update” sketch on May 19.

Curry gave his own take on the wedding and his sermon during an appearance the next day on NPR’s “Weekend Edition.” The sermon took its cues from the Bible passages that the couple chose, though he also hopes the message resonates beyond the walls of St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.

“I hope it was a message for all of us, because all of us, no matter our political persuasion, no matter our social class, beyond all of that, we all are fundamentally children of God, and that means we’re part of God’s human family, if you will,” he told NPR. “It means that we must always find ways to better the human condition, find ways to make a world where there’s room and space for all of us.”

The cover of “Crazy Christians,” a book written by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

The global exposure generated by Curry’s sermon already has brought renewed attention to his two books, “Crazy Christians” and “Songs My Grandma Sang.” It also could create unique opportunities for evangelism by the Episcopal Church, and some congregations say they already are seeing a modest impact.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in San Diego, California, posted a Facebook ad linking to Curry’s sermon for the 24 hours leading up to its 10:30 a.m. service on May 20. During the service, “I asked if anyone had come because of the sermon. Three young people in the back waved their hands,” St. Paul’s Dean Penny Bridges said in an email.

“There was a very positive buzz among the congregation yesterday too, and people reported getting messages from non-churchgoing friends who were curious.”

Some Episcopalians have been reacting to Curry’s sermon on social media by using the hashtag #proudEpiscopalian, and St. Bart’s Episcopal Church in New York is hoping the excitement will increase turnout at the congregation’s “Bring a Friend to Church Sunday” on June 3.

“We are now developing messaging that encourages parishioners to invite friends who may have been inspired by Bishop Curry’s preaching on Saturday,” said Kara Flannery, the congregation’s director of communications.

Two weeks earlier, Curry had spoken on discipleship at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Austin, Texas, the city where General Convention kicks off on July 5. So it seemed natural for the Rev. Morgan Allen, rector of Good Shepherd, to make Curry’s royal wedding sermon the focal point of his own sermon on May 20.

“Wow, what a weekend to be Episcopalian!” Allen said.

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.


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Comments (21)

  1. Authenticity was so powerful at a time when there is so much deception.

  2. We attend St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill. Our minister is Michele Morgan and her wife is Michelle Dibblee, Director of Programs at the National Cathedral. We expect and pray that this same momentum which started at Lent, the 40 days before Easter with Gene Williamson 1st Gay Bishop in America will be divinely led by God to include all. We believe that God loves all the same, gay and straight! What did Jesus say about same gender relationships? Answer: NOTHING. Love wins. Pray for our cases at the US Supreme Court 17-6685 and 17-7310, two church arrest of lesbians (while preparing refreshments) with mandated “Conversion Therapy” to be ruled unconstitutional. Global Revival is Bishop Curry’s Prayer. Let’s join him! Love is the answer. All we need is love!

  3. In the powerful sermon of Bishop Curry we hear the message of the Gospel in new and exciting ways. It reminds us that we are inheritors of the grand gospel message to love one another. As Bishop Curry challenges imagine a world governed by love. To the new Duke and Duchess it’s to their credit that they have made that the thing of their marriage to each other much to our benefit worldwide!

  4. I was embaressed by his lack of. Sober and solemn range of voice. I thought I was in a Evangelical Baptist Church from the south. Not my beloved Episcopal dignified church.

  5. Sissy Lingle says:

    Marcia Silliphant, I don’t know where you attend an Episcopal Church, but you are behind the times. Cursillo Weekends have brought fire to our church and many others. We no longer hold back, we give out! We share our love freely in and out of church services. We even had an Episcopal tent revival here in SE GA and Bishop Curry was here. Stop being the “frozen Chosen” we aren’t that any more!

  6. Shirley Seely says:

    Thank God for Bishop Curry and his Deep South evangelism! It is now my undignified loving member of the Jesus movement Episcopal church!

  7. Anthony Price says:

    I wish Bishop Curry could address the United Nations on a theme like that.

  8. Ray Hill says:

    1 Corinthians 13 might have packed more power. Guess they didn’t want to go that deep!

  9. Jean Libby says:

    feeling the love indeed

  10. Karen Treft says:

    Thank you Bishop Curry for such a lovely, passion filled sermon that told the whole world that what we all need to express to our fellow man is love. I am so impressed with Prince Harry and Meghan that they would choose to focus on love. I’m think that we’re going to see great things from these newlyweds! May God Bless and Keep Them! (I attend St. Martin’s in The Desert Episcopal Church, Pahrump, NV.

  11. Susan Russell says:

    Report from a welcome table volunteer: “I was working the welcome table for the 9 o’clock yesterday, and we went through many more red welcome bags than usual. When I asked one person what brought them to church yesterday morning, they said they were moved to give church another try because of Bishop Curry’s sermon. How wonderful and how needed it was by so many!”

  12. What a blessing Bishop Curry is to this world! Authentic, joyous, hopeful, deeply faithful in his love for Christ, and dedicated to the inclusiveness of His teachings. The Episcopal Church has received an injection of new life. Thanks be to God and Bishop Curry!

  13. ++Michael Curry didn’t use notes, rather he made eye contact with people. He was passionate and knew his sermon inside out. Interestingly, he brought a fresh language to a timeless topic of marriage and love.
    Some people may not like this but he changed the focus of the whole ceremony from the Royal couple to the God.

  14. Dianne Aid says:

    In these troubled times Michael Curry pulled me to recommittment to transform with love and hope to do the work of justice with the gentle but firm prodding of Jesus.

    I cannot wait until June 14th when Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will be preaching at Saint Mark’s in Seattle, then a few weeks later at General Convent>n in Austin.

  15. Melinda Ray says:

    What a blessing God has sent us on the eve of Pentecost!!! 2 BILLION people heard the GOOD NEWS of the Love of Jesus Christ from the lips of His servant Michael Curry!!! And I believe that is exactly what Prince Harry and his bride Meaghan intended! Praise God for their Faith as well. To the one woman above who has not yet received the full joy of that message, I pray for you, my sister, that your Joy may be complete.

  16. Larry Waters says:

    Wow what a show of “love” by Sissy Lingle attacking Marcia Silliphant saying “… you are behind the times…” I have no objection to Bishop Curry’s sermon IF it were given from the pulpit NOT a wedding ceremony where the bride/groom are supposed to be the stars! Sadly love does NOT cure societal ills-actions help eliminate poverty, homelessness and despair. Kindness towards one’s fellow humans is also. Paying for a meal for a homeless person or a person who is infirmed is a good start. Maybe those actions of kindness will generate “love” about which Bishop Curry spoke.

  17. Dani Rice says:

    The Psalmist tells us, “Let the righteous be glad, and rejoice before God; let them also be merry and joyful.” Ps. 68:3. I think Bishop Curry fulfilled this perfectly. Not so stuffy as to be off-putting, but lively and engaging, and certainly merry and joyful. At any rate, the bride and groom were pleased, and the rest of us also enjoyed the sermon. I’d be delighted to listen to him every week, if I could!

  18. MR Scullary says:

    Mr. Waters, what is the Great Commandment that Jesus preached about? Love comes FIRST, the tangible actions and consequences follow. Unfortunately, Ms. Silliphant’s tongue-in-cheek sneer about the Presiding Bishop and Primate of the ECUSA not belonging in her interpretation of her “beloved Episcopal dignified church” illustrates that we have a long ways to go….

  19. Ann Brophy says:

    I think it is counterproductive for any one person to decry another’s thoughts on a site like this. More importantly is to appreciate the love message Bishop Curry offered up. and to be grateful for the inclusive choices the newlyweds made as part of their commitment to their lives together. Inviting PB Curry to share the message of love, what he calls “the Jesus Movement” was a strong statement from the couple. They knew what to expect when they asked him to preach, and he delivered the message loudly and clearly.. I hope many also caught the wonderful part of the Anglican sacrament of marriage that includes God as an integral part of their union.

  20. Tom Lowe says:

    Larry Waters: When a wedding is held in a holy and consecrated place (i.e. a church), the focus IS ON GOD! No if, ands or buts about it. I’m glad that you have been introduced to Marcia. And I am terrible a spreading love, myself, so don’t get bent out of shape over that! Godspeed!

  21. Frank Wang says:

    Hahaha Saturday Night Live doesn’t let anything pass and make it funny.

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