- Harris, Barbara Clementine
- (b. 1930)pioneer female Episcopal bishopBarbara Harris, the first woman consecrated as a bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion, was born on June 12, 1930, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a child she attended the predominantly African-American St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Germantown, where she emerged as a youth leader.While pursuing a successful business career, Harris became active in the Civil Rights struggle through the Church of the Advocate in northern Philadelphia, and participated in the Selma march led by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965. Her pastor supported her call to the ministry at a time when the Episcopal Church had yet to ordain women as priests.In 1974, Harris led a march of Episcopal lay-women to an unauthorized service at which 11 women were ordained as priests. Two years later, the church authorized the ordination of women, and she began to study for the ministry. After completing work at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, she was ordained a deacon in 1979 and a priest a year later. She left Sun oil, where she had been head of community relations, to become a priest at St. Augustine of Hippo Church in Philadelphia and chaplain at Philadelphia County Prison.In 1984, she was appointed executive director of the Episcopal Church Publishing Company, and as editor of the church journal Witness Harris assumed a platform and maintained a degree of notoriety throughout the church. Her articles on racism in the church and President Ronald Reagan's policies provoked a strong reaction, but more liberal factions in the church promoted her candidacy for the episcopacy. Despite opposition from those who opposed her stands on various issues and those who opposed the idea of women bishops, in February 1989 she was consecrated suffragan bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts, thus becoming the first woman to become a bishop in the history of the worldwide Anglican Communion.Harris continued to criticize the church for what she contended was an insufficient number of female bishops - only 10 others (out of hundreds of men) were serving in the Anglican Communion by 1999. She also criticized her Episcopal colleagues for continuing to question the efficacy of female priests and bishops.At the mandatory retirement age, Harris officially left her post in 2002. In the summer of 2003, she agreed to become the assisting bishop in the Diocese of Washington (D.C.).See also Episcopal Church; women, ordination of.Further reading:■ Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones, The Miter Fits Just Fine: A Story about the Rt. Rev. Barbara Clementine Harris, Suffragan Bishop, Diocese of Massachusetts (Cambridge, Mass.: Cowley Publications, 2003)■ Pamela W. Darling, New Wine: The Story of Women Transforming Leadership and Power in the Episcopal Church (Cambridge, Mass.: Cowley Publications, 1994).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.