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Bishop Curry provides Raleigh connection to royal wedding

May 21, 2018 GMT

Raleigh residents watching the royal wedding on Saturday may recognize more than just the bride, the groom and his family. The man delivering the homily, the Most Rev. Michael Curry, spent 16 years in Raleigh and still visits often.

Curry is the leader of the Episcopal Church and the hand-picked choice of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Friends and colleagues say he’s ready for the largest audience of his priesthood.

Curry was elected bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina in 2000. In 2015, he was elected to lead the Episcopal Church.

“I think Michael Curry is a role model, a role model for us, but also beyond the walls of our Episcopal Church,” said the Rev. William Bennett, pastor of Raleigh’s Church of the Good Shepherd for 19 years.

Bennett, a scholar of British and Anglican history, beams as he talks about his mentor and friend who still drops by from time to time.

“About a month ago, I was standing outside greeting folks and looked down Hillsborough Street and saw that smiling face,” Bennett said. “As you know, he has a special relationship with Good Shepherd here.”

As an American, Curry’s role in the royal wedding is unprecedented. The announcement came just six days ago, via tweet, from the Archbishop of Canterbury, describing Curry as a brilliant pastor and stunning preacher.

Bennett said, “I agree with the Archbishop of Canterbury. The good news of Jesus Christ will be joyfully proclaimed at Windsor Palace, St. George’s Chapel, at the wedding of the Duke of Cambridge and Meghan Markle.”

The choice or Curry may have raised a few eyebrows among the traditional clergy of the Church of England. Bennett maintains that his mentor could carry another message – of unity – after recent rifts between the Episcopal and the Anglican churches over issues of sexuality.

“This would seem to be a chance for bridge building or bridge mending,” Bennett said. “In that regard, sometimes the images are greater than the little things we mess with.”

Curry, who was born in Chicago, now resides in New York.. He will join the dean of Windsor, the Rt. Rev. David Conner, and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who will officiate the wedding.

Welby has baptized Markle ahead of her marriage to Harry, the grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, who is the supreme governor of the Church of England.

Curry began his ministry as deacon-in-charge at St. Stephen’s in Winston-Salem in 1978 and was rector from 1979 to 1982, according to the church’s website. He served in Ohio and Maryland before his time in Raleigh.

Curry is the first African-American to have served as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, an offshoot of the Church of England in the United States. It is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion.