Statements of Remembrance: Bishop Barbara C. Harris

"Bishop Harris was not large of physical stature. In fact, the opposite. But she was larger than life. She was larger than life because she lived it fully with her God and with us. She did it by actually living the love of God that Jesus taught us about. She did it walking the lonesome valley of leadership, paving a way for so many of us whose way had been blocked. She did it lifting her voice for those who had no voice. She did it with a joke, a whispered word, a secret joy in spite of anything that got in her way, including death. 

No wonder she titled her memoir, Hallelujah Anyhow!"

--Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry, March 14 via Facebook

It is almost impossible to imagine the Episcopal Church without Bishop Barbara Harris, the first female bishop in the Anglican Communion. Elected in 1988, Barbara was fierce, faithful, and, as a journalist once called her, “memorably direct” in her insistence that the Episcopal Church pursue justice for all of God’s people.

Barbara was always completely and totally Barbara. She never pretended to be anyone other than who she was, and she told the truth no matter what the cost. Often that cost was paid with the comfort and dignity of institutional leaders who were, in her view, insufficiently interested in standing with the marginalized and the vulnerable. They learned quickly that her passion for justice was matched only by her wicked and fearless sense of humor.

On the Sunday after she was elected bishop, Barbara preached at the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia, where fourteen years earlier, she had served as crucifer at the ordination of the Philadelphia Eleven. In her sermon, she said that “a fresh wind is indeed blowing. For some they are refreshing breezes. For others they are as fearsome as a hurricane.”

I give thanks to God for Barbara’s life and ministry and for the fresh wind of change that she blew through our church. May we all strive to be worthy of the legacy she has bequeathed to us.

--The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President, House of Deputies, March 14 via Facebook

Our beloved friend, mentor and bishop, the Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris, has gone home to God.  We will miss her so much.  Her faith, wisdom, witness and inimitable humor powerfully shaped the larger life of the Episcopal Church and of our cathedral, where she served as chief pastor for many years.

Bishop Barbara was with us for worship on a Sunday as recently as last October, when she graced us with a "living epistle"--exhorting us to pledge and testifying to the spiritual importance of our gifts, even if they seem small.  Her voice will continue to ring in our ears and inspire our actions long into our future.

May Bishop Barbara rest in peace and rise in glory.  And may we who knew and loved her find solace and strength in our faith in Christ's resurrection and the promise of our reunion with all the saints in the life to come.

--The Very Rev. Amy E. McCreath, Dean, Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston, March 14

...Bishop Harris’s life and ministry has had a profound effect on the Church and the world. Her witness to the Gospel called all of us to deep prayer and action...  Read the full message here.

--The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, Bishop Diocesan, and The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens, Bishop Suffragan, Episcopal Church in Connecticut, March 14

When I heard the news about Bishop Barbara Harris’ passing, I recalled words my son recently spoke to me. He said, "The sign of a good leader is they lead even when they are not around." These words couldn’t be more appropriate right now. Bishop Harris paved the way for many of us to follow. In the words of Zora Neale Hurston, Bishop Barbara was, for many of us, "our highway through de wilderness."  Read the full message here.

--The Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, Dean, Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, New York