Bishop Michael Curry, the minister who electrified the royal wedding between Meghan Markle and Prince Harry with a powerful sermon on love, returned to the US with a message for his countrymen: “Love your neighbor.”
Curry, the most senior figure in the American Episcopal church, joined Christian faith leaders in a candle-lit vigil and protest procession to the White House on Thursday.
“Love your neighbor. That’s why we’re here,” Curry told a rapt audience at the National City Christian church in Washington before the processional. He continued, his voice building, as audience members rose to their feet cheering wildly: “Love the neighbor you like and love 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 and your white neighbor, your Anglo neighbor, your Latino, your LGBTQ neighbor. Love your neighbor. That’s why we’re here.”
Organizers said as many as 2,000 people attended the service, with the audience spilling onto the steps of the neoclassical building and an overflow room across the street. As dusk fell, a procession of clergy and people of faith silently carried votive candles from the church to Lafayette Square, a park facing the White House.
The demonstration is part of a wider movement known as Reclaiming Jesus, which was formed by group of progressive Christian leaders, including Curry. They co-signed a declaration of principles that rejects Trump’s “America first” agenda.
At the White House, the leaders of the movement formed a prayer circle and took turns reading the declaration.
“We believe two things are at stake: the soul of the nation, and the integrity of faith,” the declaration states. It outlines six principles, what they say are the corresponding Bible verses as justification.
“We reject ‘America first’ as a theological heresy for followers of Christ,” the declaration says. “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.”
It continues: “We reject the resurgence of white nationalism and racism in our nation on many fronts, including the highest levels of political leadership.” It states that Christians should reject the “growing attacks on immigrants and refugees, who are being made into cultural and political targets” and “the practice and pattern of lying that is invading our political and civil life”.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Before the vigil, the leaders of the movement repeatedly stressed that their action was nonpartisan. Jim Wallis, the president and founder of Sojourners, a progressive Christian magazine and a leader of the movement, declared that the demonstration was “not about Donald Trump” but had a higher purpose of healing the deep divisions in the county.
But those in attendance were decidedly progressive. There were Women’s March T-shirts, pins showing support for the Parkland students anti-gun violence movement, Black Lives Matter signs and several people wore rainbow colors in support of LGBTQ rights.
“I know they said this is not a protest but this is a protest for me,” said Moya Harris, the executive minister at Metropolitan AME Church in Washington. “I’m resisting what is going on down the street and resistance is part of my faith.”
After the vigil, a crush of reporters trailed Curry shouting questions in vain about the royal wedding and the president. Did you speak to the royal couple about Trump, a cameraman asked.
Curry laughed: “Oh Lord no.”