Bishop Michael Curry, the Christian leader who emerged as an unexpected star last Saturday during Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding, is taking his message of love to the streets.
Curry joined dozens of other progressive Christian leaders in Washington, D.C., on Thursday night for a candle-lit vigil and march to the White House that aimed to “reclaim” Christianity. An organizer told HuffPost that up to 2,000 people packed into the National City Christian Church to hear Curry and other prominent Christians preach before the march.
Curry, a Chicago native and the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, emphasized the importance of love in a time when he believes the integrity of the Christian faith is at stake.
“Love your neighbor,” Curry said during the service. “Love the neighbor you like and the neighbor you don’t like. Love the neighbor you agree with and the neighbor you don’t agree with. Love your Democrat neighbor, your Republican neighbor, your black neighbor, your white neighbor, your Anglo neighbor, your Latino neighbor and your LGBTQ neighbor. Love your neighbor! That’s why we’re here!”
The event had been planned for weeks before Curry gave his impassioned sermon about love during the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wedding on May 19. But some Christians are hoping that the bishop’s newfound popularity will help highlight the progressive faith movement ― and prove that conservative evangelicals don’t have an exclusive claim on interpreting Christianity.
For Curry and others involved in the march, being Christian means rejecting white nationalism and misogyny; it means protecting immigrants, refugees and the poor.
The speakers did not mention President Donald Trump directly during the service on Thursday night. Curry himself insisted that “we are not a left-wing group; we are not a right-wing group. We are a Jesus movement.”
However, the leaders signed a declaration that contained references to the Trump administration’s actions and policies.
Curry said that he and other Christian leaders from various denominations had gathered for a Lenten retreat this year to talk about the state of Christianity in an increasingly polarized nation. Curry said the result of that meeting was a declaration calling on other Christians to “reclaim Jesus.”
In the declaration, the leaders rejected Trump’s “America First” philosophy, which purports to put the interests and security needs of the American people first, as “theological heresy for followers of Christ.”
“While we share a patriotic love for our country, we reject xenophobic or ethnic nationalism that places one nation over others as a political goal,” the leaders wrote in the statement. “Serving our own communities is essential, but the global connections between us are undeniable. Global poverty, environmental damage, violent conflict, weapons of mass destruction, and deadly diseases in some places ultimately affect all places, and we need wise political leadership to deal with each of these.”
The leaders also condemned the “normalization of lying” and politicians who neglect the ethic of public service and accountability “in favor of personal recognition and gain often characterized by offensive arrogance.”
“We are deeply concerned for the soul of our nation, but also for our churches and the integrity of our faith,” the leaders wrote.
The White House did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Watch a livestream of the service below.
The declaration was co-signed by Rev. Jim Wallis, president of the progressive Christian organization Sojourners, which helped organize Thursday’s vigil.
Signatories included Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, the first female bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Rev. Dr. Joel C. Hunter, a former megachurch pastor from Florida who served as one of former President Barack Obama’s spiritual advisers. It also featured other prominent black Protestant, mainline Protestant, Catholic and evangelical leaders.
Following the service, the crowd participated in a silent march to Lafayette Square, a park facing the White House. There, leaders of the movement took turns reading out the declaration, The Guardian reports.
“Jesus is Lord. That is our foundational confession,” the declaration states. “It was central for the early church and needs to again become central to us. If Jesus is Lord, then Caesar was not—nor any other political ruler since.”
Watch a video by Sojourners about the Reclaiming Jesus declaration.