Harris, Bishop Barbara (1930 – )
First woman consecrated a bishop in the Anglican Communion.
SIG – Ballpoint pen signature on her official letterhead. Accompanied by a small black and white glossy reprint image.
Harris was ordained Bishop Suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts on February 11, 1989. As the first woman ordained as a bishop and an African American, she received death threats and obscene messages. Though urged to wear a bullet-proof vest to her ordination, she refused. A contingent of the Boston police were assigned to her consecration. Her comment was merely, “I don’t take this in a personal way.”
The Episcopal Synod of America was formed in response to her consecration.
Speaking of her work as bishop, Harris said, “I certainly don’t want to be one of the boys. I want to offer my peculiar gifts as a black woman… a sensitivity and an awareness that comes out of more than a passing acquaintance with oppression.”
Harris retired from this position in Boston in 2003. She was succeeded as bishop suffragan by another African-American woman, Gayle Elizabeth Harris.
Harris served as Assisting Bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, DC until 2007, and as president of the Episcopal Church Publishing Company, publishers of The Witness magazine.