Five days after the royal wedding made him an internationally known figure, Bishop Michael Curry led a group of hundreds in a march through D.C. to the White House, calling for President Trump to abandon what they said are divisive rhetoric and policies.
Holding lit candles, about 2,000 participants walked from the National City Christian Church to Lafayette Square, where they prayed in front of the White House and challenged an administration they charge has put the nation in a moral crisis.
“We came together, liberal and conservative and everything in the middle,” Curry said during the May 24 event. “What binds us together is Jesus Christ and his way, his teaching and his life.”
Curry was thrust into the international spotlight for the May 19 royal wedding of Prince Harry and biracial American actress Meghan Markle.
Curry had never met the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, but they chose the him and the Bible verse that he used for his sermon during the wedding because two years ago he became the 27th presiding bishop and first American to lead the Episcopal Church in the U.S., the sister body to the Church of England.
Before Thursday’s march, Curry told the packed sanctuary at National City, “this is not a protest march, this is a procession of Christian people.”
Rev. William H. Lamar IV, pastor of the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, also stressed the importance of the event.
“We are here tonight because our faith demands that we stand in confrontation of injustice that is sweeping the nation, injustice against the immigrants, the poor, the incarcerated and doesn’t mind using the most vile and racist terms to dehumanize God’s people to unite,” Lamar said. “You see there are Bllack people here, White people here, gay people here, straight people, Christian people and people of no faith. We will not stop until justice is a reality in the United States of America.”
Barbara Williams Skinner, a former faith adviser to President Obama, was one of the organizers of the rally and silent march that drew several thousand people to the gates of the White House while Trump was inside. During the vigil she offered a special prayer to change hearts going forward.
“My prayer at the gate was, “Lord, please touch the hearts of our leaders in the Congress and the White House that they have compassion and mercy for all God’s children,” Skinner told The Afro. “We are fighting racism at every level because it demeans the divine imprint. Our battle is not against Trump, but to address the needs of all Americans whose jobs are not coming back. This is a message of love.”
Skinner said that elders of the new movement are planning a series of organizational meetings to build bridges with a new generation of clergy of many races and backgrounds to forge a common agenda.
While the elders spoke inside the church at Thomas Circle, the steps leading into the historic sanctuary became a diverse quilt of many: Black and White, old and young.
“How many believe that both the soul of the nation and the integrity of our faith is really at stake?” said Jim Wallace, founder and president of Sojourners. “People of faith want to respond and not just react — I find that deeply encouraging and very hopeful.”
The sanctuary, foyer and steps of National City were filled as Curry spoke to a standing-room-only crowd, preaching about the redemptive power of love.
“As elders, we view bringing the Reclaiming Jesus declaration to the public square as a tangible example of how to live out that way of love,” Curry said. “We are Christian leaders bearing moral witness to the teachings of our faith in the public square. As citizens, we want our government to reflect our values. As a bishop, I believe we should follow the teachings of Jesus, who taught us to love God and love our neighbor.”
Rev. Leslie Copeland Tunes, director of Ecumenical Advocacy Days, a progressive group of ministers, said the event has been needed for a long time.
“We are reclaiming Jesus from those who have hijacked and distorted the gospel and for us to proclaim that it is a liberating gospel,” Copeland-Tunes said. “Jesus loves the poor and cares for the poor and we are not going to stand for policies that discriminate against people.”