New York -- In a rare moment of willful anonymity, Archbishop George A. Stallings Jr., of Washington's Imani Temple, wedged himself and his Japanese bride into the assembly line of suits and white gowns in a New York Hilton ballroom today and exchanged wedding vows, with the Rev. Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church officiating.
This was another of Moon's famous mass nuptials, where men and women who've barely met vow to spend their lives together. Lately, those men and women have been likely to hail from opposite ends of the Earth, as Moon chases his dream of one "interreligious, interracial, international" family, with himself and his wife as humanity's "True Parents."
For Stallings and his new wife, Okinawa native Soyami Kamimoto, the ceremony concludes a courtship unveiled two weeks ago, on Mother's Day, when Stallings, 53, surprised his Afrocentric congregation by announcing he was engaged to marry a 24-year-old Japanese woman.
He then infuriated many of the members by telling a local newspaper that he had picked a Japanese wife because they are known to be "gentle" and "take care of the kids" and "not party all the time," which many black women in his temple took as an implication that they are the opposite.
Among the couples of many ethnicities and ages squeezed into the five front rows of the packed ballroom, Stallings and Kamimoto were definitely the friskiest, giggling and whispering to each other as Moon preached in Korean. As the rest of the couples sat stiffly for the official portrait, none of them cracking a smile, Stallings and Kamimoto pointed at their relatives in the audience and laughed.
Stallings is a defrocked Catholic priest who was excommunicated in 1990 after forming Imani Temple, a breakaway religious movement. He would have been the most famous bridegroom today were it not for the presence of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, a Catholic who's been serving in Rome for 20 years.
Milingo was once a charismatic preacher and faith healer in Africa and blames the church for reining in his gifts, muzzling him with a job pushing paper. Milingo, 71, who says he's kept his vow of celibacy since he was ordained in 1958, married Maria Sung, a 43-year-old acupuncturist from South Korea.
In a statement after the ceremony, Stallings answered some of his critics. Moon did not "handpick" a bride for him, he said. God chose her to be his "twin soul before the foundations of the earth were laid." God also put in Stallings's head the idea that he wanted a Japanese woman, a preference he confessed to Moon. He also expressed his "deepest respect, love and appreciation for black women."
After the ceremony, Stallings and his new wife rushed back to the New Yorker hotel with his family and 30 members of his church, who had come by bus for the wedding. When asked how it felt to be married, Stallings said, "Renewed."
He then looked over at his bride, but she remained silent. "She's a woman of few words," he finally added. "If she stays that way through the marriage, I'll be a happy man."
But friends of his who had met Kamimoto said her silence was deceptive, that she would wear the pants, that she'd alreadyput him in his place when he brought up the subject of kids. As if to prove it, she ended the interview, saying, "I want to eat."