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The Presiding Bishop's 15 minutes of fame

The Presiding Bishop's 15 minutes of fame
The Royal Buzzword Trinity: love ... fire ... power

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
www.virtueonline.org
May 23, 2018

Last Saturday, Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry had his 15 minutes of royal fame -- 13 minutes and 44 seconds actually -- and he almost became as big a media darling as the newly-minted Duke and Duchess of Sussex. It was at their wedding the top American Episcopalian preached. His 1,553-word sermon was laced with subliminal and visual messages which set the House of Windsor's teeth on edge.

Michael Curry had a captive audience. While the various crown heads of Europe might not have been present at Prince Harry's wedding, since he is now sixth in line to the British throne, however more than 30 members of the House of Windsor -- Prince Harry's royal grandparents, father, stepmother, brother, aunt, uncles, in-laws, cousins, nephew and niece -- were in attendance, including the Queen of England (grandmother) and the next three generations of British kings -- Prince Charles (father), Prince William (brother), and young Prince George (nephew).

The marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was a very different sort of royal wedding. True, the pomp and pageantry were all in place -- the Queen, royal princes and princesses, the open carriage with footmen, horses and coachmen, colorful uniforms, a sparkling diamond tiara, crowded streets, fancy hats and a medieval castle with a gothic chapel. Many other things were new or very different -- a divorced American biracial bride, a black Episcopal bishop referencing American slaves and Martin Luther King, a black gospel choir, a black cellist, the bride's refusal to be "given away," Hollywood "royalty" including the "Queen of Hollywood" Oprah Winfrey, veiled references to marriage equality and full inclusion, as well as the advancement of the Archbishop of Canterbury's progressive political agenda for the Church of England and Anglicanism as a whole.

JUSTIN WELBY'S FINGERPRINTS

The invitation of Michael Curry as the preacher for the royal wedding was carefully crafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. He was working behind the scenes and had the necessary connections; he was preparing Meghan Markle -- a nominal unbaptized Episcopalian, who went to a Roman Catholic parochial school, and previously was married to a Jew -- for baptism and confirmation into the Church of England in preparation for her marriage to a royal prince, the grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, who is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and the Defender of the Faith. Archbishop Welby said that in 2002 the Church of England had solved the problem of the divorced remarrying with a church wedding and he would, in fact, officiate at the wedding. It was Lambeth Palace which issued the invitation for Michael Curry to preach at the royal wedding.

Bishop Gavin Ashenden, formerly an honorary chaplain to Queen Elizabeth, has a deeper understanding into the Presiding Bishop's invitation to the royal wedding. He thinks that the Archbishop of Canterbury was pulling strings behind the scenes to advance his own liberal agenda and is using Presiding Bishop Curry and the royal wedding to forward his own personal cause.

"This wedding is being used by the Church of England to send out some not so subtle signals," Bishop Ashenden explained on Anglican Unscripted. "It's part of the overall Welby strategy."

The English bishop continued: "...essentially, neither Harry nor Meghan Markle had any idea who Michael Curry was."

"The couple have asked the Most Rev. Michael Curry, the first African-American elected as presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church, to delivering a rousing sermon about love during the ceremony on May 19." The Telegraph reported before the nuptials. "The preacher does not have a personal relationship with the couple but was chosen by them in discussion with the Archbishop of Canterbury."

Bishop Ashenden described Presiding Bishop Curry as a "really delightful man and a very good speaker." He wished he had Curry's preaching passion. But the British bishop also described any royal wedding as "theatre" and a "public spectacle" as well as a "chance to throw a party and gossip terribly."

Some of the subtle signals Bishop Ashenden was referring to came in the Presiding Bishop's wedding sermon and the added emphasis on Miss Markle as a woman-of-color in the choosing of the black American Presiding Bishop, himself the descendant of slaves from North Carolina and Alabama, played right into the scenario of inclusiveness.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, an American civil rights advocate and black Baptist preacher, declared that the inclusive royal wedding shows white supremacy is "on its last breath."

Following the wedding hoopla, The Hill quoted Pastor Sharpton as saying: "When you got little white girls in Wales saying, 'I want to be like Meghan,' there is a shift worldwide that white male supremacy is on its last breath."

Great care was taken to highlight Meghan Merkle's African-American roots. The new Duchess' mother, Doria Ragland, is black, a descendant of slaves from Tennessee and Georgia.

In addition to the headline-stealing liberal left-leaning black Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, the Kingdom Black Gospel Choir sang two American civil rights movement hymns and black classical cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason was a stand out.

The new duchess' father, Thomas Markle, is white and lives in Mexico. Due to problems with the Paparazzi and subsequent medical issues, the father-of-the-bride was unable to attend his daughter's wedding, so the father-of-the-groom "accompanied" Miss Markle to the altar to meet her waiting groom.

A LIBERATED FEMINIST TIGRESS

As a liberated woman, she refused to be "walked down the aisle" and be "handed over" to a man like some "piece of property." The bride entered the nave of St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle on her own, while following the Dean of the Windsor David Conner and trailed by the six miniature bride's maids and four diminutive pageboys to finally meet the Prince of Wales at the Quire. But Prince Charles did not place her hand in his son's hand when they reached Prince Harry. The bride had no matron of honor and the only Markle family member in attendance was her mother. She gave the cold shoulder to other members of her family, including half siblings.

Once Presiding Bishop Curry launched into his sermon, it did not take long for him to start quoting Dr. Martin Luther King who was a visible force behind the mid-20th century American civil rights movement. In fact, the Presiding Bishop bookended his royal sermon with Martin Luther King before three of the future kings of England.

Bishop Curry took his power of love theme from King and the very title of his Royal Wedding Sermon is The Power of Love. He used the phrase "power OF love" seven times and then tweaked the phrase to "power IN love", which he also used seven times as he indirectly preached about acceptance, inclusion, human rights, hunger, poverty and social justice.

"Oh, there's power, power in love. Not just in its romantic forms, but any form, any shape, of love," Bishop Curry preached.

"There's a certain sense, in which when you are loved, and you know it, when someone cares for you and you know it, when you love and you show it, it actually feels right. There's something right about it ..." he said making a subliminal reference to marriage equality.

Just a month before her wedding, which was seen by as many as a billion people spanning the globe, particularly by those nations which are included in the Anglican Communion, the future Duchess of Sussex signaled her acceptance and proselytizing for gay rights in England.

"This is a basic human rights issue, not one about sexuality," Miss Markle said at the April Commonwealth Youth Forum meeting in London in which Prince Harry was announced as the new Commonwealth Youth Forum Ambassador.

Prince Harry said that both he and his bride-to-be expressed a shared interest in speaking up for LGBTQ rights and would championing the cause at the Forum. He said that he was "invigorated by the progress that has been made in the past decade on gay rights."

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex chose seven charitable organizations for their wedding guests to support in leu of gifts. They include: CHIVA, the Children's HIV Association; Crisis, a national charity for homeless people; the Myna Mahila Foundation, for the empowerment of women in Mumbai's Bombay, urban slums; Scotty's Little Soldiers, supporting the bereaved British Armed Forces children; StreetGames, which uses sports to empower young people; Surfers Against Sewage, a national marine conservation group; and The Wilderness Foundation UK, which promotes the enjoyment of the great outdoors.

The House of Windsor may have just grabbed the tigeress by the tail in its new Duchess of Sussex. She is unabashedly a feminist and is strong-spoken on controversial issues.

In a 2015, UN speech she declared: "I am proud to be a woman and a feminist."

The Royal Family cannot downplay its new duchess' political leaning. On her official website it says: "In 2015, The Duchess became the UN Women's Advocate for Women's Political Participation and Leadership. In this role, she gave a speech on the importance of gender equality on International Women's Day for UN Women in New York City ..."

Rather than conforming to time-honored royal protocol, Meghan Markle is bending them to her ways and the Presiding Bishop's presence at the royal wedding was a part of the package. He willingly played his part well.

THE TRINITY OF BUZZWORDS

Bishop Curry used a trinity of buzz words in his sermon: love (63 times); power (19 times); and fire (19 times). He also referenced loves -- once; loved -- once; loving -- once; and beloved -- twice. He mentioned God 18 times, Jesus six times, and the Holy Spirit only once.

The only mention of the Holy Spirit, or reference to the Trinity, came in his way of making the Sign of the Cross: "And now in the name of our loving, liberating, and life-giving God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen."

The Presiding Bishop is also noted for his Jesus Movement crusade which instantly brings back mental images of the Jesus Movement revolution during the Turbulent Sixties, a contemporary countercultural revolution which swept the western world and brought into fruition flower power, the flower children, non-passivity, and Jesus freaks during the height of the Viet Nam war.

"Someone once said that Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in all of human history," he preached. "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."

But the American bishop pointed to "love is the way" 15 times using the phrase as his platform to leap headlong into the social gospel.

"Think, and imagine ... 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 ..." the American Presiding Bishop said standing in front of four generations of current and future British Commonwealth monarchs.

"When love is the way, unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive ...," he continued. "When love is the way, then no child would go to bed hungry in this world ever again ..." leaving 'little black children left unsaid, but allowing one's mind to envision the starving black children in Africa, where Anglicanism has a foothold.

"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," he thundered. "When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary ... When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields to study war no more ... When love is the way, there's plenty good room. Plenty good room, for all of God's children." This is the rallying cry for those who are clamoring for total inclusion -- all Sacraments for all the baptized -- within the church regardless of race, color, nationality, gender, or sexual orientation.

"And when love is the way, we actually treat each other -- well, like we're actually family," he pressed on before a predominately white audience peppered with black faces. "When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all, and we are brothers and sisters ... Children of God."

The Presiding Bishop quoted verses from two Negro spirituals including There is a Balm in Gilead. It was almost expected that he would break out in song as he quoted the text while explaining American slavery to the British aristocrats and he cited Down by the Riverside when explaining how "love is the way."

While the black gospel choir did not sing Negro spirituals, it did sing Stand by Me and This Little Light of Mine, long associated with the American Civil Rights Movement and the marches and riots of the 1960s.

MEDIA REACTION

For the most part the secular media loved the black American Presiding Bishop. He returned home to rave reviews. However, the conservative Anglican press were not as taken with Presiding Bishop Curry as much as feeling taken by him.

One a post wedding Anglican Unscripted, Kevin Kellsen said: "As far as pollical strategy, this is the biggest F-U Justin Welby could have ever delivered to the Anglican Communion."

Michael Curry was thrilled to be in England and to be with the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace. In a joint interview he told CBS news that: "The Church of England is the Mother Church and so it's always to be good in Mama's House."

"I can't believe you just said that," Archbishop Welby shot back as he broke into laugher. "I really can't believe you just said that. I think it is fantastic."

In a post wedding follow-up, Anglican Unscripted Bishop Ashenden called Presiding Bishop Curry's The Power of Love sermon "a classic case of heresy and false teaching -- antibiblical teaching."

He noted that English is a bad language, theologically, when it comes to fleshing out the word "love."

In Biblical Greek there are four definitions for love -- "eros", romantic and sexual love; "storge", family or clan love; "philia", brotherly love; and "Agape", God's pure Divine unconditional Love.

"The first thing he (Curry) began to say was, if you are in love you're in God.' Now this is a piece of poor liturgical practice by the Church of England and the Anglicans," Bishop Ashenden explained.

"... what Harry and Meghan felt for each other -- Agape is somewhere near the bottom of the list" Bishop Ashenden continued. "They were feeling a certain amount of eros; let's hope that storge develops -- the family love -- but it was the romantic love and sexual love."

The British bishop quickly parsed the American Presiding Bishop's sermon down to: "If you have the hots for each other -- God's involved."

"It's so not true," Bishop Ashenden said. "In a sexualized, overt eroticized, romanticized Hollywood culture, to simply affirm all of those heresies was a really serious mistake."

In a post wedding reflection posted on Virtue Online, Bishop Ashenden called what Bishop Curry offered as Christianity lite.

"The god that Curry preached was a god who gives romance and erotic love and neighbourly generosity without any conditions attached," he wrote.

Another huge problem with the Archbishop of Canterbury offering Michael Curry the pulpit at the royal wedding is that as an Episcopalian and the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, he was not held being accountable to the sanctions imposed during the Primates' Gathering which sought to curtail The Episcopal Church's involvement on an Anglican Communion-wide and global level.

In January 2016, a majority of the Anglican primates gathered in England and came to a collective mind to discipline The Episcopal Church for three years -- until 2019 -- over the American church's allowing its clergy to perform same-sex marriages following the United States full acceptance of gay marriage. The Episcopal Church was to step back from active participation in ecumenical and interfaith affairs as well as in internal Communion-wide doctrinal decisions for three years. But almost immediately, the sanctions on the American church were ignored and it was business as usual.

If that 2016 Primates' Gathering prohibition was to be honored, Presiding Bishop Curry would not have been invited to preach at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's royal wedding.

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

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