We in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington add our collective prayer of gratitude for the life and ministry of Bishop Barbara C. Harris and sorrow at the news of her death. We give thanks to God that she died peacefully, while many around the world kept vigil in her final hours.
After her years as Bishop Suffragan in the Diocese of Massachusetts, Bishop Harris served as Assisting Bishop in the Diocese of Washington from 2003-2007. Bishop Harris inspired and mentored many who are leaders among us now.
Canon to the Ordinary (Chief of Staff) for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, the Rev. Paula Clark said of Bishop Harris:
She was a pioneer and ‘shero’ to many of us in ordained ministry. I was honored to have her preach at my ordination to the priesthood in 2005, and her charge to us was one given at her own ordination, “The [Holy Spirit] Power behind you is greater than any obstacle ahead of you.’ Bishop Barbara Harris kept a slip of paper with this mantra with her at all times. She lived by these words through the myriad challenges and achievements she experienced, and I will always keep this charge from her foremost in my ministry and in my heart.
Bishop John Bryson Chane, Eighth Bishop of Washington, said:
Bishop Harris accepted my invitation to support the work, mission and ministry of the Diocese of Washington during a significant time of transition within the Episcopal Church. She was a champion for women’s ordination, gender equality, racial equality and social justice and was one of the great preachers of the Church. It was an honor to serve with her. She was not just a friend, but a bright, shining light reflecting the courage and fortitude that is required to bring about change in any institution. She was prophetic, compassionate, and lived her life with a great passion for the possible, never wearying in the call to serve God’s people and follow the Good News of the Gospel of Christ.
As we await the day when we can celebrate Bishop Harris’ life at Washington National Cathedral, we commend our sister Barbara to God and console ourselves with memories of her audacious faith, prophetic witness, disarming wit, and personal kindness.
“The mitre fits just fine,” she said on the day of her historic consecration as the first woman bishop in the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion. Bishop Harris was the first to welcome me into the sisterhood of women bishops, and like so many, I owe my ministry to the path she forged.
Her spirit will live forever.
Read a remembrance of Bishop Harris from the Diocese of Massachusetts
Updated to include Bishop Chane’s statement regarding Bishop Harris’ legacy.