12: Bishop Barbara C. Harris

2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women in the ELCA, the 40th anniversary of women of color, and the 10th anniversary of LGBTQ+ siblings.

It’s an incredibly important marker for the ELCA, though it is only the beginning for the Church, as women are still denied ordination across the denominations and hold less than 15% of the leadership positions in the worldwide church! Therefore, in 2020, we in the Oregon Synod will highlight one woman from Christian history every week. Some you may know, others you may not, but all worthy of our respect and gratitude.

#12 Bishop Barbara C. Harris

Today we honor the life and ministry of Barbara C. Harris, who in 1989, was consecrated in Boston as an Anglican bishop, becoming the first female to serve in the role. She died Friday at the age of 89. Before becoming bishop, she was active in the Civil Rights Movement, including marching in Selma. Her appointment brought a lot of hate her way, but she remained joyful. Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry says. “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 is 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 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!’” Remember Bishop Harris in your prayers today, a woman who used her life to advocate for “the least, the lost and the left out.” Rest in peace, Bishop Harris.