Bishop Michael Curry criticises Donald Trump over church visit

Helen William, PA

The priest who gave an impassioned sermon at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex has criticised US President Donald Trump for using a church and a bible for “partisan political purposes”.

Mr Trump’s actions have sparked outrage from religious leaders globally, who called for unity with black people in the fight against racism, as protests continued in the US over the death of African American George Floyd while in police custody.

The comments from Michael Curry, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the US, came after peaceful protesters outside the White House were dispersed by police officers firing tear gas and using flash bangs, as Mr Trump walked to the nearby St John’s Church and posed for photographs while holding a bible.

In a tweet, the bishop said: “In so doing, he used a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan political purposes.”

The bishop stressed that the public need the president and all who hold office to be “moral leaders”, adding: “For the sake of George Floyd, for all who have wrongly suffered, and for the sake of us all, we need leaders to help us to be “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.””

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby responded by praising the bishop’s leadership and all those in the US who “are striving for racial justice and reconciliation”.

He added: “I pray that those of us who are white Christians repent of our own prejudices, and do the urgent work of becoming better allies to our brothers and sisters of colour.

“For those of us who are white Christians, I pray that we reflect and pray deeply and honestly on what it means to follow the teaching of Jesus to “love your neighbour as yourself”.”

People at a Black Lives Matter protest rally outside the US Embassy in Dublin following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, US (Niall Carson/PA)

Bishop Curry is warmly remembered for his enthusiastic sermon about love at the royal wedding in 2018.

Mr Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died after a white policeman was seen pinning his neck under a knee for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis on May 25.

Mr Trump has condemned the death but he said peaceful protests could not be drowned out by an “angry mob” and threatened tough action.

The archbishop pinpointed “centuries-old racism and white supremacy” as the “root cause of the suffering of black and minority ethnic communities” globally.

At a time when these communities are being disproportionately hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, “endemic and longstanding racism, white supremacy” was a “cause, a root of what is happening”, he suggested in an online message.

He said: “The terrible events in the States, the power of them, the appalling video we saw, the tragedy of the rage is springing from deep senses of generational injustice.”

He added: “The act of reconciliation requires justice, not simply forgetting.”

People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest outside the US Embassy in London (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, pointed to early medical tests which suggest Mr Floyd was killed by “homicide caused by asphyxia due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain”.

He tweeted: “Tear gas and rubber bullets on peaceful protestors”. It hurts to watch Donald Trump corrupt the soul of America from afar. Solidarity to all those Americans who believe in a fairer future. We stand with you.”