Episcopal Bishop Michael Bruce Curry nearly upstaged the royal bride Saturday when he preached a characteristically charismatic sermon at the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle. But those who watched Curry rise through the ranks of the Episcopal Church — the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion — were not surprised.
Here's more about Curry:
▪ Bruce Michael Curry was ordained Bishop of the North Carolina Diocese on June 17, 2000. He served in that position until he was elected the 27th bishop of The Episcopal Church in June 2015. While serving as bishop of the church in North Carolina, Curry worked with a number of church and civic advocacy groups, including Episcopal Relief and Development; Saint Augustine’s University; the N.C. Council of Churches; the Moral Monday movement; the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church; and the Union of Black Episcopalians.
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▪ Curry was the first African American to be elected bishop of The Episcopal Church, whose membership is 90 percent white and 4 percent black, making it one of the least diverse U.S. church denominations. Curry was elected with 121 of the 174 votes tallied. He was confirmed by the House of Deputies by an overwhelming vote of 800 to 12.
▪ Curry’s mother died when he was young, and he was raised largely by his maternal grandmother, Nellie Strayhorn. In his 2015 book, “Songs My Grandma Sang,” he said all of his grandparents were the grandchildren of slaves in North Carolina and Alabama. The gospel songs his grandmother sang while she cooked, which were descended from spirituals, “were not just songs with catchy tunes,” he wrote. They were songs that sang of a way of viewing the world that could make life livable no matter what. They reflected a way of looking at life, a way of engaging life, a way of dealing with whatever life threw at you in faith and hope.” They were where he learned what he believes, he said.
▪ Curry has long been active in the church and outside it on social justice issues including poverty, immigration policy and marriage equality. In 2004, with Curry as bishop, the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina became one of six dioceses in the country to write policies allowing the blessing of same-sex unions. The denomination as a whole did not approve religious weddings for same-sex couples until 2015.
▪ Curry and his wife, Sharon, have two grown children. Daughter Elizabeth is a 4th-grade teacher at Baileywick Road Elementary School in Raleigh.
▪ Curry’s energetic sermon at the royal wedding was the subject of a gentle sendup on “Saturday Night Live” that night. During the Weekend Update segment of the show, Kenan Thompson, playing Curry, described the experience of bringing his Southern black church style to the staid St. George’s Chapel on the grounds of Windsor Castle.
“Did you see it? It was tough, man, real tough. I preached and I testified and I yelled while 500 stuffy English people looked at me,” Thompson said.
“It felt like somebody opened a chicken-and-waffles kiosk in the middle of a Pottery Barn.”