Michael Curry is a superb preacher and a delightful man. And if everything wrong in the world could be put right by charm and beauty and wit, we would have nothing to worry about.
I was sorry to cast a cloud over what was and should be a very happy event, as two people celebrated their love in public.
One of the problems was that some events have a sub -text which is even more important than what was taking place at the time.
A wedding was taking place. Love was being celebrated. But the sub-text was the struggle for the soul of a Church and how people would hear about God. And if they did hear about Him, what kind of God they would hear about.
Some of my spiritual ancestors died and were put to death to defend the enormous and deeply precious truth about God and the quality of His love for us, so it is not much for me to risk a little social opprobrium for trying to do the same thing.
The dear couple had no idea who was being asked to preach at their wedding. It was an idea that Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, had suggested to them. They were hardly in a position to know or refuse.
And at one level, the choice was brilliant. Michael Curry is a gifted preacher and black. What a great way of signalling the coming together of American and British culture, white and coloured.
But there was a hidden sting in the tail. There is a civil war raging at the moment in Anglicanism (and elsewhere) between progressive Christianity that takes its priorities from the zeitgeist, the present culture, and a faithful orthodox belief, that keeps faith with what Jesus taught in the Gospels.
This is quite a fight. Orthodox Christians believe that we are caught up in a very serious struggle between Good and evil, and evil tries to trick us and hide the good from us; usually by dressing up something corrupt which pretends to be goodness itself.
This ‘telling the difference’ between good and evil is as important as being able to tell the difference between medicine and poison. It may be the difference between life and death.
So when Justin Welby suggested Michael Curry as the preacher on this astonishing world-wide stage, he was also signing up one of the most effective street fighters for progressive, distorted Christianity who – with great charm and verve – presents his own preferred version of Jesus to the real one we find in the Gospels.
This matters very much. Curry’s Jesus is preoccupied with social Justice and the celebration of romance and sexual love wherever it finds you. The real Jesus warned that social justice would never happen in this world, that heterosexual marriage was to be between a man and a woman, and that equality had nothing to do with the Kingdom of Heaven.
Curry twists that round and turns it upside down. He says Jesus likes homosexual marriage and favours the quest for equality that left-wing politicians have made their life’s work. Curry says wherever you find ‘love’ you have found God. But when Jesus defines love it sounds very different from Curry.
Love for Jesus starts with honouring and obeying the Father who created us and renouncing anything that displeases Him and pollutes his holiness.
Jesus warned his followers time and time again against people who would come in His name and teach different things.
What we have in the Anglican world at the moment is a struggle for the soul of the Church and a struggle to tell the truth about God and present the real Jesus.
There is a wonderful saying from Orthodox (Eastern) Christianity, that our aim ought to be ‘to stand before the real God with the real self with our mind in our heart’.
If we modify the message of Jesus and the person of Jesus, we can never find the real God, and only by finding Him can we discover our real selves.
Jesus warned people time and time again that the road to heaven was going to be very difficult, so difficult that not many would walk it. It was going to involve his rejection, torture and death. It was going to involve our dying to ourselves. The other side of this death is eternal joy in the presence of God. But the other side of that joy is a place that, once they have given themselves to appetites that do not have the love of God at their centre, becomes a terrible destination of alienation and separation.
Medicine or poison.
So it isn’t enough to talk about ‘love’ as Michael Curry did. It’s a very poor word in English, because it means so many different and sometimes contradictory things. While falling in love with someone is an epic experience, it does not automatically lead to the road to heaven. In fact, it can even get in the way of loving Jesus and serving the Kingdom of Heaven.
If people are going to experience the love of God, find transformation and be brought to heaven, it can only happen by experiencing the real Jesus, and not the fake Jesus we invent for our short-term comfort.
And that is the difference between the two sides in this civil war in Anglicanism.
It was a brilliant move of Welby to sign Michael Curry up to present their joint vision of faith. But the reason for the struggle is that 90% of Anglicans in time, and nearly 100 % of Anglicans in history, do not or would not accept it as authentic, faithful Christianity.
Nor would the Roman Catholic Church; nor the whole of Eastern Christianity; nor would biblical Protestantism. Only the failing compromised liberal Protestantism that has surrendered faithfulness to Bible and tradition in favour of secular and social affirmation.
At stake is whether we offer the world medicine for the healing of their souls, or something that will have a very different effect, and nothing to do with the real Jesus.