Bishop Michael Curry, who gave a historic sermon at Saturday’s royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is an ardent supporter of same-sex marriage.
Curry, who is the first African American head of the US Episcopal Church, brought a passion and energy to the ceremony that is rarely seen in these kinds of traditionally stiff, formal occasions.
Quoting civil right leader Martin Luther King and French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Curry’s empowering sermon was an affirmation of the “redemptive power of love” in all its forms. For many it was one of the highlights of the wedding, which was watched by an estimated two billion people worldwide.
“When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever flowing brook,” Curry said. “When love is the way, we actually treat each other, well … like we are actually family.”
The choice of Curry to speak at the wedding reflects Prince Harry’s support for the LGBT community. In 2008, the prince stepped in to save an openly gay British soldier from a homophobic attack by other soldiers. Last year, he spoke out in a speech about how “many young gay men” of his mother’s generation faced death because of HIV.
The 65-year-old Chicago-born Curry made history when he was elected the presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church in 2015. He has actively addressed social justice issues such as immigration policy and marriage equality and his church is one of the most progressive Anglican churches.
In 2009, the Episcopal Church agreed to allow openly gay or lesbian individuals to become ministers. In 2015, the church caused shock-waves in the global Anglican Communion when it changed its definition of marriage from being between one man and one woman, allowing same-sex couples to marry in church.
In response, the Anglican Communion in the following year acceded to the threats of anti-LGBT church leaders and suspended the Episcopal Church for “unilaterally” accepting same-sex unions. The Church was, for three years, barred from being allowed to take part in any decision making bodies of the Anglican Communion.
Conservative and homophobic Anglicans, largely from Africa, had threatened to walk out of the global body over the issue unless they got their way. Around 50 million of the world’s estimated 86 million Anglicans are from Africa.
Curry was unrepentant and said after the sanctions were imposed: “Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all.”
He argued that the Anglican Communion’s decision to punish the Episcopal Church would have a detrimental impact. “For fellow disciples of Jesus in our church who are gay or lesbian, this will bring more pain,” he said. “For many who have felt and been rejected by the church because of who they are, for many who have felt and been rejected by families and communities, our church opening itself in love was a sign of hope. And this will add pain on top of pain.”
Divisions in the Anglican Church first erupted in 2003 when Gene Robinson was elected the Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire in the Episcopal Church. This made him the first openly gay, non-celibate priest to be ordained as bishop in a major Christian denomination.