Ret. Rev. Barbara C. Harris, the first woman ordained and consecrated as Bishop in the Worldwide Anglican Communion, died Friday. She was 89.

“Our hearts are truly heavy at the loss of one who has been a faithful and altogether irrepressible companion, pastor and inspiration to us in the Diocese of Massachusetts for 31 years,” Ret. Rev. Alan M. Gates, Diocese of Massachusetts, said via press release. “At the same time our hearts are truly buoyed by the hope which she preached and the conviction she embodied for us throughout all these years.”

The Ret. Rev. Barbara C. Harris, at consecration service February 11, 1989. (Image courtesy Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts/Photo: David Zadig)

Rev. Harris is survived by her brother, Thomas and his family.

“Bishop Harris was not large of physical stature. In fact, the opposite. But she was larger than life.,” Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Most Rev. Michael Curry wrote in a Saturday Facebook post. “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!’” Curry concluded.

Rev. Harris served 13 years as a suffragan (assisting) Bishop in the Diocese of Massachusetts from 1989 to her retirement in 2002. From 2003 to 2007, Rev. Harris served as assisting Bishop in the Diocese of Washington (D.C.).

The same Massachusetts Diocese named the newly build Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center (Greenfield, New Hampshire), in her honor. In 2019, the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing in the Diocese of Atlanta launched the Bishop Barbara C. Harris Justice Project, a project to advance the Church towards addressing social injustices.

When I heard the news about Bishop Barbara Harris’ passing, I recalled words my son recently spoke to me,” The Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, Dean, Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, New York, wrote in a Facebook post. “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.”