Profile -- Barbara Clementine Harris

Episcopal News Service. September 29, 1988 [88202]

The Rev. Barbara Clementine Harris, D.S.T., was born June 12, 1930, in Philadelphia, Pa.

In 1954, she received a diploma from the Charles Morris School of Advertising and Journalism in Philadelphia, and from 1977 to 1979 she attended Villanova University in Villanova, Pa. She has studied in the Executive Management Program at Pennsylvania State University (1973); the Sun Institute (1975, 1977); the Urban Theology Unit, Sheffield, England (1977); and the Pennsylvania Foundation for Pastoral Counseling (1979-81).

She received an honorary Doctor of Sacred Theology degree from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 1981.

Before entering the ordained ministry, Harris had a career as a public relations executive. She was chief operating officer of a public relations counseling organization, Joseph V. Baker Associates, Inc., Philadelphia (1958-68), and she began a 12-year period at the Sun Oil Company (later the Sun Company). She was manager and consultant in community relations (1968-72); manager for community and urban affairs (1972-73); manager for public relations (1973-77); and senior staff consultant (1977-80).

She became a member of the Episcopal Church at a young age, and by 1968 was active at the Church of the Advocate on the north side of Philadelphia. In the 1960s, she was involved in church-related programs to register black voters in Mississippi, and in 1965 she participated in the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., that was led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

At the Church of the Advocate, Harris served on the vestry and as a volunteer in the prison ministry. Her interest in ordained ministry increased during those years, and in 1974, she cut short a business trip to the west coast to be crucifer at the celebrated service for the "Philadelphia 11," in which 11 women were ordained to the priesthood without official Church authorization.

Her rector, the Rev. Paul Washington, became convinced of Harris' serious interest in seeking holy orders, and he recommended her to Bishop Lyman C. Ogilby of Pennsylvania. Ogilby ordained her deacon in September 1979 and priest in October 1980.

She returned to her home parish first as deacon intern in 1979, then as assistant in 1980, and from 1980 to 1984 she was priestin-charge at St. Augustine of Hippo Church, Morristown, Pa. During this same period she was a chaplain in the Philadelphia County Prisons. Harris returned to the Church of the Advocate as associate in 1984, and June 1988 was appointed interim-in-charge.

In 1984, she became the Executive Director of the Episcopal Church Publishing Co., an umbrella organization that publishes The Witness, which for 70 years has been the Church's leading journal advocating peace and justice ministries. Harris has written extensively for The Witness, most notably a column entitled "A Luta Continua," an anti-Portuguese rallying cry from the Angolan guerrilla movement. It means "the struggle continues."

In recent issues her column had addressed South African terrorism, the life of Mattie Hopkins, inclusive language liturgy and human sexuality debates before General Election, educating black South Africans, and hate-group activities in the United States.

In other service, Harris has been a member of the Union of Black Episcopalians; the Task Force on Recruitment, Training, and Deployment of Black Clergy; and the Public Relations Society of America. She has served on the boards of the Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Mass., the Pennsylvania Foundation for Pastoral Counseling, and the Seybert Institution.

Suffragan Bishop-elect Harris is divorced with no children, and makes her home in Philadelphia.