Bishop Michael Curry to preach at royal wedding

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will marry at St George’s Chapel in the grounds of Windsor Castle next Saturday. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will officiate and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, of the U.S-based Episcopal Church, will preach. Photo Credit: Mark Jones/Flickr
Published May 18, 2018

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, will preach at the May 19 wedding of Prince Henry of Wales—more informally referred to as Prince Harry—and U.S. actress Meghan Markle, Kensington Palace recently announced. Prince Harry, the grandson of Queen Elizabeth and sixth in line to the throne, will marry Markle at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle Saturday, May 19, in a service conducted by Dean of Windsor David Conner. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will officiate.

The invitation from the couple to Bishop Curry to preach at the service is a departure from tradition for British royal weddings. While previous royal weddings have involved clergy from other Christian churches saying prayers for the couple, sermons are usually given by senior Church of England (C of E) clergy. The service will be televised around the world, and it is likely that Curry, who refers to himself as the CEO of The Episcopal Church—the Chief Evangelism Officer—won’t resist the opportunity to talk about what he calls the Jesus Movement.

“The love that has brought and will bind Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle together has its source and origin in God, and is the key to life and happiness,” Curry said. “And so we celebrate and pray for them today.”

Prince Harry was born September 15, 1984 and was baptized at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, three months later. After completing his formal education, he spent a gap year in Australia and South Africa before training for military service. He served with the British Army in Afghanistan as an officer in the Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons of the Household Cavalry, in the U.S.-led operation to remove the Taliban from power, following the September 11 terror attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. His service in Afghanistan came to an end after his presence there was revealed by an Australian magazine, but he returned a few years later in a deployment with the Army Air Corps. In 2014, he launched the Invictus Games for injured ex-service personnel, and is patron of a number of organizations, including the HALO Trust, which works to remove mines from Qasr el Yahud—the site on the west Bank of the River Jordan at the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus.

Markle was born August 4, 1981 in Los Angeles, Calif. Her parents, Doria Ragland and Thomas Markle, divorced when she was six. In her acting career, she has appeared in a number of roles, including in the films Get Him to the Greek, Remember Me and Horrible Bosses. But she is best known for her portrayal of the character Rachel Zane in the hit U.S. legal drama series Suits. Her character, a paralegal who trained to become an attorney, was the love interest of phony-lawyer Mike Ross. Markle married Trevor Engelson in 2011; they divorced in 2013, long before Markle was introduced to Prince Harry.

The couple have met Archbishop Welby on a number of occasions as part of the preparations for their wedding; and Markle asked Welby to baptize her. It has been widely reported that she was baptized and confirmed by Welby at St James’ Palace in London this past March.

“It was very special,” Welby told ITV News. “It was beautiful, sincere and very moving. It was a great privilege…You know at the heart of it is two people who have fallen in love with each other, who are committing their lives to each other with the most beautiful words and profound thoughts, who do it in the presence of God.”

Previous royal weddings have involved a range of preachers. When Queen Elizabeth married Prince Philip in Westminster Abbey in November 1947, the service was conducted by then-Dean of Westminster Alan Don, while the wedding itself was officiated by then-Archbishop of Canterbury Geoffrey Fisher. The sermon was preached by then-Archbishop of York Cyril Garbett.

Prince Harry’s mother and father, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, made the unusual decision of marrying at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral in 1981. They were married by then-Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie, who also preached. In 2005, after Diana’s death, Prince Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles, now Duchess of Cornwall, in a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall. This was followed by a Service of Prayer and Dedication at St George’s, Windsor, conducted by then-Archbishop Rowan Williams. There was no sermon in that service.

Prince Harry’s older brother, Prince William, married Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey in 2011. Dean of Westminster John Hall presided over the service, while then-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams conducted the wedding. Bishop of London Richard Chartres, dean of Her Majesty’s Chapels Royal, preached the sermon.

St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle is located within the area of the Church of England’s diocese of Oxford; but it outside the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop. It is one of a small number of Church of England churches known as Royal Peculiars—which means that it is under the direct control of the monarch, rather than the diocesan bishop or archbishop. Among the other Royal Peculiars are Westminster Abbey, the five chapels that make up the Chapels Royal, and the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, in the Houses of Parliament.

The U.S.-based Episcopal Church is the oldest independent Anglican province outside the British Isles. When European travellers first colonized what is now the United States of America, they took with them clergy from European churches, including the Church of England. C of E clergy and churches in the U.S. were under the ecclesial authority of the bishop of London; and despite requests from the Church of England in America and the bishop of London himself, no suffragan bishop was appointed to reside in and serve the church locally.

After the War of Independence, the Anglican church in America effectively ceased to be part of the Church of England—not least because of the political difficulties of a church tied to one nation trying to serve the population of another nation that had just won its independence. Now locally organized, Anglicans in America adopted the names Episcopal and Episcopalian, because even the name “Anglican” denoted its English origins.

The real split, however, came in 1784, when Church of England bishops refused to consecrate the American church’s first bishop, Samuel Seabury. This was because of his reluctance to swear an oath of allegiance to the British Crown. He was instead consecrated by bishops from the Scottish Episcopal Church, who had their own historical reasons to distance themselves from the Church of England.

Today, the U.S.-based Episcopal Church has 109 dioceses and regional areas in 17 nations. It is one of 39 independent but interdependent autonomous provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is the senior bishop and primate of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church. He is a passionate evangelist. In an interview with ACNS following Curry’s installation as The Episcopal Church’s 27th presiding bishop and primate in November 2015, he stressed the need for Christians to be part of “the Jesus Movement.”

The Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Photo: The Episcopal Church

“I can tell you that I believe passionately in the Great Commission and its call to go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and teaching them to obey everything that Jesus has taught us,” he said.

“I believe that that’s a call, an invitation and an exciting possibility; and I think that is one of the foundational principles of our call to be the Church: to help to make other followers of Jesus who can then, following his teachings and following the way of Jesus in their life and in our lives together, help to make this world a better world—something that is less like a nightmare and more like God’s dream and God’s vision and God’s intention for the human family and the whole of creation.

“That, for me, is one of the centre-pieces of the Gospel.”


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