American Bishop Michael Curry has captured the world’s attention with a long and powerful address at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
The Chicago-born bishop spoke passionately about the power of love, quoting Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
“There’s power in love, don’t underestimate it,” he said. The wide-ranging and colourful speech was seen as a significant break from tradition.
The Most Reverend Michael Curry became the first black presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church – like the Church of England, part of the Anglican Communion – when he was appointed in 2015.
He has spoken out on social justice issues in the past, including LGBT rights and sexual abuse.
The address, replete with historical references, had churchgoers, including David Beckham and the Duchess of Cornwall smiling. Others appeared transfixed.
The bride and groom, who invited Bishop Curry to speak, sat near the preacher and held hands as they watched him speak.
Bishop Curry addressed the audience as “brothers and sisters”.
“When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook,” he said, quoting the bible and raising his arms.
“When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the Earth will be a sanctuary.”
He continued, referencing the African-American spiritual song Down by the Riverside, which was sung by slaves: “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.
“Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well, like we’re actually family.”
But Bishop Curry appeared to realise he may have gone on speaking for too long, saying towards the end of the speech that he had better wrap up, as “we gotta get you all married!”
This is brilliant from Bishop Curry – some amazing facial expressions all around! “We’re going to sit down, we gotta get y’all married!” Beatrice giggling, Zara open-mouthed in disbelief! #royalwedding
— Emily Nash (@emynash) May 19, 2018
End of Twitter post by @emynash
Before the ceremony, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, who officiated the ceremony in St George’s Chapel, said he was thrilled the prince and Ms Markle had chosen Bishop Curry, describing him as a “brilliant pastor, stunning preacher”.
The speech – described by some as the “fire” speech for the large number of references made to it by the preacher – lit up social media.
Former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband said the bishop could “almost make me a believer”.
His Labour colleague David Lammy was also impressed.
‘Fire, fire, fire’
Bishop Curry spoke at length in the last part of his speech about fire, quoting the late French philosopher and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
The Frenchman, he said, had “suggested that the discovery and harnessing of fire was one of the great technological discoveries of human history”.
He then listed the many uses of fire, from cooking food, to aviation, to “broadcasting this wedding around the world”.
The preacher later returned to de Chardin, who he said had argued that “if humanity ever captured the energy of love, it would be the second time in history that we have discovered fire”.
When we discover the “redemptive power of love”, he said, “we will make of this old world, a new world”.
Talking to the bride and groom, he finished his speech by saying: “My brother, my sister, God love you, God bless you, and may God hold us all in those almighty hands of love.”
Who is Michael Curry?
- He was ordained as a priest in 1978, is the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church and has spoken on issues including social justice, immigration policy and marriage equality
- He most recently campaigned for the creation of family day care providers, educational centres and investment in inner-city neighbourhoods in all three of his parish ministries – North Carolina, Ohio, and Maryland
- In North Carolina, he helped to refocus the church’s development goals to fund malaria nets to save more than 100,000 lives
- Bishop Curry defended the Episcopal Church’s move to allow same sex couples to marry in church in 2015, which caused some churches to cut ties
- The US Episcopal Church is one of only two Anglican churches worldwide that allow gay marriage in church – the other being the Scottish Episcopal Church