The Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris, who was the first woman to be ordained a bishop in the Episcopal Church of the United States — indeed, in its parent body, the worldwide Anglican Communion — an election that caused a furor among conservatives, died on Friday in Lincoln, Mass., outside Boston. She was 89.
Ms. Harris served as suffragan, or assistant, bishop of the Massachusetts diocese from 1989 until her retirement in 2002, and in some ways she was an unlikely candidate for the role. She had neither a bachelor’s nor a seminary degree, and she was divorced — a profile that some critics said made her unfit for election, regardless of gender. Others feared that she was too progressive for the church.
An African-American, she went on to challenge the Episcopal hierarchy to open its doors wider to women as well as to black and gay people.