Who Is Reverend Michael Curry?

If you didn't tune in to see the royal wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, you missed out. The event was as elegant and breathtaking as you would expect from the royal family. The newly-minted Duchess of Sussex made sure to add some American flair to the proceedings, and the result was epic. The Most Reverend Michael Curry, the African-American presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church, stole the show with his sermon about faith and love — it was arguable the best moment of the wedding.

There was no way that Meghan Markle was going to have anything but a spectacular wedding, and Curry's sermon, in which he quoted Martin Luther King Jr. and spoke about slavery, reminded commoners and royals alike that the biracial actress-turned-royal is not your typical princess. The sermon was well-received, and the new duchess was praised for paying homage to her roots. So who exactly is this dynamic figure who stole the spotlight at the royal wedding? Let's find out.

Breaking down racial barriers

The fact that Curry is the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church is a big deal. The predominantly white denomination has had African-American bishops before, but Curry is the first African-American to be elected presiding bishop and primate, a position tasked with overseeing the national church. It was something that few people would have imagined happening when Curry was in seminary school.

"The expectation at the time was that if you were a black priest or seminarian, you were going to be serving in black churches," Curry told The New York Times. "There was a black church world and a white church world. That was the givenness of racism."

While Curry has made history, he doesn't view it as a big of a deal, saying that it "doesn't influence me day to day." Instead, Curry says that his focus is on "working to create a church and a world where there is room for everybody."

Preaching runs in the family

Coming from a family of preachers played a major role in Curry's eventual career choice. While many members of his family — including the grandmother who helped to raise him — were Baptist, he followed in the footsteps of his Episcopalian father. His dad, Rev. Kenneth Curry, served as the rector of St. Philip's Episcopal Church, an African-American parish in Buffalo, New York, according to the Associated Press.

Curry's father started off his career as a Baptist preacher. It was Curry's mother Dorothy who convinced him to change his mind. Dorothy, who had also been raised Baptist but converted in graduate school after reading C.S. Lewis, brought the young preacher to an Episcopal service while they were dating. Curry's father noted that black people and white people received Holy Communion together, drinking from the same cup in an era of racial segregation. Seeing the racial diversity at the service convinced him to become an Episcopalian, and the rest is history.

Activism is in his blood

Preaching isn't the only thing that Curry learned at his father's knee. The bishop campaigns for social change, something that he inherited from his father, a civil rights activist. Curry's father was a leader in Buffalo's civil rights movement and helped end the segregation of the city's schools. Curry's father and the civil rights movement helped to shape both his political and spiritual beliefs. In the royal wedding sermon, he quoted noted civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., saying (via Harper's Bazaar): "We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love, and when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world."

Like his father before him, Curry stays active in the community. According to his bio on the Episcopal Church's website, he is involved in many charitable efforts, such as helping to create educational centers and raising money for inner city neighborhoods.

He has some pretty epic role models

Clearly, Curry's father was a pretty big inspiration in his life, but Curry also has a couple of other amazing role models who have influenced him. One of them is Verna Dozier, a high school English teacher and speaker in the Episcopal Church whose teachings had a big impact on Curry. "She taught Episcopalians to read the Bible," Curry told Chicago Tribune.

His other role model is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor who lived during WWII. Bonhoeffer defied the Nazis and worked to save Jews from almost certain death in the Holocaust. He was punished for his heroic deeds and killed in a concentration camp. "His was a real following of the way of Jesus that was willing to love when others would hate and speak when others would be silent — and it seems to me that is the nature of following Jesus," said Curry.

Campaigning for "racial reconciliation"

One of Curry's biggest goals in his role as presiding bishop is to bring about racial reconciliation. He has spoken frankly about the racism in the United States and what can be done to ease racial tensions in the country. His words on how to create a more tolerant society will sound familiar to those who watched the royal wedding. The key, according to Curry, is love.

In an interview with Religion & Politics, Curry emphasized the need for building human relationships, and for people searching for what they have in common rather than what makes them different. "People have got to know each other as human beings who got a story," he said. "When that begins to happen among people, most of the time — not all the time — but most of the time, that relationship becomes the basis for navigating all sorts of stuff. It's like a marriage."

An advocate for LGBTQ rights

In keeping with his belief in equality and justice, Curry has long been an advocate of LGBTQ rights. The issue of marriage equality has long been a polarizing one in the Episcopal Church. Curry was one of the first bishops in the church to allow same-sex marriage in his diocese, and defended the Episcopal Church's decision to bless same-sex marriages. Many church leaders opposed this stance, leading Curry to compare the discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community to racial discrimination.

"What I was attempting to do was to describe the deep pain for L.G.B.T. folk," he told The New York Times. "I said, anytime anybody is excluded, it hurts." When the Episcopal Church first allowed the blessing of same-sex marriages in 2012, Curry had already been officiating such marriages in his diocese for eight years. "I believe we are doing the loving thing," he told HuffPost. "We are finding a way to to support and care for people who have shown lifelong care and love for each other."

He almost became a lawyer

Curry's successful career has led to a lot of good for both the community and the Episcopal Church. Between his activist work and charitable deeds, his role in the royal wedding has earned him some long overdue recognition from the world, but the religious life was not his first calling. When Curry was younger, he had his sights set on becoming a lawyer and then running for public office.

The Hobart College grad planned on a political career as an undergraduate student in the 1970s, but felt himself pulled to the church. His father, as a reverend himself, knew what such a life would entail and actively discouraged his son from entering the ministry. Curry, however, felt that as a religious leader he would be able to inspire social change. He ended up going to Yale Divinity School, where he earned a master's degree. In 2000, he became North Carolina's bishop.

Keeping true to himself

Throughout his illustrious career, Curry has stepped on more than a few toes. He faced opposition for his support of same-sex marriage, and even raised a few eyebrows with his impassioned sermon at the royal wedding. While some people might feel that Curry isn't traditional enough for his position, he's not going to change his ways any time soon — and we wouldn't want him to.

Before the royal wedding, Curry was asked how he planned to approach his sermon. Other people might have toned down their style for the occasion, but Curry wouldn't let even an event as dignified as a royal wedding interfere with his flow. "I'm just going to show up," he told CBS News. "I'll never forget my daddy told me when I was fairly new as a priest, he said just always be who you really are. Don't pretend to be someone else."

He's not a fan of Donald Trump

It's not surprising that, given his background, Curry also weighs in on political matters. The bishop has loudly opposed many of President Donald Trump's policies. He is one of the leaders of the Reclaiming Jesus movement, which has gathered religious leaders to protest governmental policies. While it is a faith-based movement, the goals of Reclaiming Jesus go far beyond religion. As always, Curry's ambition is to spread love. The movement has many goals, which echo the sentiments of non-religious organizations such as the Time's Up movement, which combats sexual harassment.

Among the goals of the Reclaiming Jesus movement are to reject "the resurgence of white nationalism and racism in our nation on many fronts, including the highest levels of political leadership," to "reject domination rather than stewardship of the earth's resources, toward genuine global development," and to "reject misogyny, the mistreatment, violent abuse, sexual harassment, and assault of women that has been further revealed in our culture and politics."

He's a bestselling author

As the first African-American presiding bishop, an activist, and a humanitarian, Curry was already a big deal, whether or not he delivered a sermon for royalty. He's got an impressive list of accomplishments, but they don't end there — Curry is also a bestselling author. He's got a few books under his belt, including Crazy Christians: A Call to Follow Jesus, which has hit Amazon's bestseller lists. Curry has also authored a memoir called Songs My Grandma Sang, and is listed as the primary author for Following the Way of Jesus: Church's Teaching for a Changing World: Volume 6.

The royal wedding may have garnered Curry some international attention, but his words and actions have already reached countless people. If you're looking to track down his books, be aware that there is more than one Michael Curry in the publishing world. The reverend adds his middle initial to the books he authors, so you'll find his books under Michael B. Curry.

The royal wedding sermon was for all of us

You may have watched on with jealousy as the actress we all know as Meghan Markle married her prince, but whether or not you actually snagged a coveted invitation to the wedding, you were part of the royal couple's special day. It may have seemed like Curry was preaching to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, but that sermon was for everyone.

"I hope it was a message for all of us, because all of us no matter our political persuasion, no matter our social class, beyond all of that, we all are... part of God's human family," Curry told NPR. "That means that we're intrinsically related and that leads to a whole chain of cause and effect in terms of how we relate to each other in terms of how we relate to the world."

Most of us didn't gain a noble title or a prince from the royal wedding, but we can all take away a lot from Curry's message of love.