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PHOTO ESSAY

Black Churches in America

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Barbara Harris

Courtesy of Robert Burgess, from Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

Barbara Harris spent thirty two years in the corporate world pursuing a groundbreaking career as a public relations consultant in which she worked hard to dismantle barriers for both women and African Americans in a predominately white male profession. Always active in the Episcopal Church, in 1974 she led a march into the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia in support of the controversial ordination of eleven women into the priesthood. Not long after, Harris herself felt a call to the priesthood and became an ordained priest in 1980. She continued to be an outspoken advocate of women's equality in the Episcopal Church, both in a weekly magazine column and at the Lambeth Conference, a gathering of Anglican bishops held by the Archbishop of Canterbury every ten years. In spite of opposition from those who viewed her as the radical spokeswoman for the liberal element of the Episcopal Church, Harris was elected as bishop in 1988 and consecrated in 1989. Despite protests at her ordination and a growing specter of schism in the Episcopal Church over the ordination of gay priests, Harris remains committed to the belief that the church must continue to embrace diversity if it is to continue thriving into the new century.

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