Michael Curry, Primate of the Episcopal Church of America, emerged from obscurity to steal the headlines at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on 19 May. He was the guest preacher, and it’s unlikely that St George’s chapel Windsor had ever witnessed anything quite like it. His preaching style was animated and refreshingly different from the staid and dreary Church of England monologues that usually feature on royal occasions. He went over his time. He ad-libbed. The reaction in the congregation was a mixture of amusement, bemusement and bewilderment.
Reaction to the sermon was very favourable. Piers Morgan tweeted: “Wow. Still reeling from Rev Curry. What a moment. What a guy!” Ed Miliband, an atheist, said, “Rev Michael Curry could almost make me a believer”. Many evangelicals hailed it as a great gospel sermon. But was it? The answer to that is no, it wasn’t really.
The Bishop’s key theme was love, which is entirely appropriate at a wedding ceremony, and some of what he had to say was fine, but he presented a view of love that was lop-sided and therefore fell far short of one that was truly Biblical. Bishop Curry is not an evangelical. He is a liberal and an ecumenist. He supports the LGBT agenda and in 2016 he worshipped with Pope Francis in Rome. In the wedding sermon, he quoted from Martin Luther King and the 20th century French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. His message was one of universal salvation. It was hailed by Piers Morgan and Ed Milliband because it did not challenge them. It caused smiles in the congregation because it did not remind them of their sin or call them to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. It was as if the Bishop had focused on the first part of John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” but forgot to mention the second part, “ that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”.
The Bishop referred to our Lord’s conversation with the lawyer and said, “Jesus said you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbour as yourself. And then in Matthew’s version he added, he said, on these two, love of God and love of neighbour, hang all the law. All the prophets. Everything that Moses wrote. Everything in the holy prophets, everything in the scriptures. Everything that God has been trying to tell the world: Love God. Love your neighbours. And while you’re at it, love yourself”. We accept that these two commandments are key, but due to our sinful natures, we are unable to keep them. Our inability to obey the law is the very source of our problem, and the reason why we need Saviour.
Bishop Curry also referred to 1 John 4:8 and said, “God is love”. We rejoice in that wonderful truth, but the Bishop quoted those words out of context. And that is an important illustration of where he want badly wrong. Let us consider the following verses in that chapter. 1 John 4:9-10 says, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins”. Now that is the Gospel! We were dead in trespasses and sins. We couldn’t love God, but God loved us and brought us from death to life by enabling us to turn to His Son who became sin for us and who is our righteousness.
In his blog, “The Wee Flea”, Rev David Robertson of St Peter’s Free Church of Scotland in Dundee says, “Imagine if Bishop Curry had said to the young couple – “it’s great to see your love, but there is a greater love, and you really need to know that love. You need to know the God who is love. You need to trust and accept his atoning work of sacrifice. You need to show your love by obeying his commands (including being faithful to each other). You need to watch out for the evil in your own heart, and that from the devil. Always look to Christ “ But he didn’t (even though the Cranmer’s Anglican liturgy recognizes all those things); and he couldn’t because he does not believe that. He disobeys Gods word, denies his atoning sacrifice and does not teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ”.
We appeal to evangelicals to be true to what they believe and not to be so easily conned by people such as Bishop Curry. 1 John 4:1 urges us to be discerning – “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world”, but such discernment seems to be sadly lacking among evangelicals today. Is it any wonder the purveyors of false doctrines are having such a field day?
Here is love, vast as the ocean,
loving-kindness as the flood,
when the Prince of Life, our Ransom,
shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten
throughout heav’n’s eternal days.
On the mount of crucifixion
fountains opened deep and wide;
through the floodgates of God’s mercy
flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
poured incessant from above,
and heav’n’s peace and perfect justice
kissed a guilty world in love.