Barbara C. Harris

Clergywoman

Born: 12 June 1930
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Best known as: The world's first female Anglican bishop
Barbara Clementine Harris became a suffragan (assistant) bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts in 1989 and thus the first woman ever to serve as a bishop in an Anglican church anywhere in the world. Harris was a corporate public relations executive in her native Philadelphia before studying for the ministry. Ordained a deacon in 1979 and a priest in 1980, she served as a parish pastor and prison chaplain in Pennsylvania from 1980 to 1984, then headed the Episcopal Church Publishing Company and The Witness magazine. Her election to the Massachusetts post in 1988 and her subsequent consecration were met with wide news coverage and some controversy in the United States and elsewhere. As an African American woman, she was outspoken on issues of race and gender in church and society but insisted from the start that her work and ministry not be limited to those issues. She retired in 2002 and from 2003 until 2007 she served part-time on the staff of the Diocese of Washington, D.C. She was hospitalized in June of 2010 after a stroke.
Extra credit: Harris's broad education included courses at the Charles Morris Price School of Advertising and Journalism and Villanova University in Philadelphia; the Urban Theology Unit, an ecumenical school in Sheffield, England; and the Pennsylvania Foundation for Pastoral Counseling.

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