When Curry was served up at the Royal Wedding, some certainly found it too hot to handle, whilst others appreciated a little spice to the typically bland affair. No we’re not talking Balti Chicken but Bishop Curry who was invited to preach for the marriage of Meghan Markle to Prince Harry.
The aftermath of that sermon was more than just gurgling tummies. Many were talking about it, from Sky News calling him “the unexpected star of the wedding” to Ed Miliband saying Curry “could almost make me a believer.” Some bemoaned it being out of context or that it went on too long. But then, the Christian interweb sparked up about it with the same kind of heat of a vindaloo – some celebrating the preaching of the gospel, others calling him a liberal heretic.
Since I didn’t watch the sermon live, with all the furore, I put it off and have only just set myself to watching it. For what it’s worth, here are some things I think we should keep in mind about it…
1. The Source
You’ve got to know who Bishop Curry is in order to understand where he’s coming from. Curry is the leader of the Anglican Church in America, the Episcopal Church. The problem is, under Curry’s leadership, the Episcopal Church has largely rejected what Christians have always held as true about marriage and sexuality and what the Bible clearly teaches. For this reason, the entire Episcopal Church is suspended from full participation in the global Anglican Communion – in other words, it is under some form of discipline. It makes you wonder what Archbishop Welby was motivated by in inviting him to preach.
Knowing this about Curry helps you understand better his position and the broader meaning behind what he is saying. When he talks about love and marriage, he really means love beyond the bounds of what the Bible affirms and what the Anglican Church has always believed and still does…officially at least. Like with many ‘Christian’ cults, he may use the same words but he may mean something very different by those words.
2. The Style
This is what captured most people. And for his style, I applaud him. As many people pointed out, he preached it like he actually believed it. He was passionate, he held eye contact, he spoke as someone actually speaking not as someone reading. He spoke as someone enthralled by the message not as someone fulfilling a duty. He wasn’t the most dynamic preacher ever, but in contrast to the typical sermon you’d see at a Royal Wedding, it was hot stuff.
It makes sense for our passion level to match the convictions of what we’re actually speaking about. If you’re preaching about data protection law, you’re probably not going to get so excited, but when you’re preaching about the God of Love, of course you should get passionate and display that through your voice and your body! Perhaps there’s something in that for the way we sing, pray and evangelise.
3. The Substance
The message Curry delivered was essentially that love is of God, as exemplified in the death of Jesus, and that when we begin to live out that love, the world flourishes. Because of what Curry actually believes about other things, unless he were to carefully define what he means by “God” and “love” and “Jesus’ death” we can’t know for certain exactly what he means and whether the substance was worthy. But taken on face value and considering the sense of occasion, that’s not bad going.
See, in a wedding, and in fact in a Royal Wedding, I wouldn’t think it’s the right context for a full blown gospel message, unless the couple were Christians. I personally would want to say something about sin and of Jesus dying to bear our sin, but it’s more of a context for whetting appetites with a taste of the gospel. Curry didn’t go as far as I probably would, but what he did say certainly could whet appetites for the gospel. My concern would be where they would follow that up with a main meal. I don’t think their hunger would be satisfied in the Episcopal Curry house!
So there’s a lot that we could be critical about with Curry’s sermon. There’s also a lot to affirm and be grateful to God about – think of when Paul said “whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” (Philippians 1:18) It’s important to think about the context in which we have the opportunity to speak (for example, we may not be able to go into as great depths sharing the gospel in the workplace as we may in a bar after work) but it’s also right to be bold and courageous and hold clear uncompromising convictions about the only message that will save.
(Originally published in the June edition of the church magazine)