First woman bishop Barbara Harris dead at 89


The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates, Bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts, announced on March 13, 2020, the death of the Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris, who was the first woman to be ordained and consecrated a bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion and served as suffragan (assisting) bishop in the Diocese of Massachusetts from 1989 until her retirement in 2002.  The full text of Bishop Gates’s announcement follows below.

Read a remembrance of Bishop Barbara C. Harris’s life here.

We invite your messages of remembrance using the form below.

Find messages of remembrance from Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry and others here.

Dear Friends,

It is with deep sadness that I write to let you know that Bishop Barbara Harris died on the night of March 13, 2020, at Care Dimensions Hospice House in Lincoln following a hospitalization in Boston, faithfully attended throughout by dear friends and upheld by the prayers of so many.  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.  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.

Barbara once wrote, “If we can believe that Jesus, who died, rose again from the dead, … then we can, in peace, give over those who have died—known and unknown—to a loving, compassionate and ever-merciful God who has prepared for us a better home than this Good Friday world.”  

With regret but with confidence, we entrust our beloved sister Barbara to that merciful and compassionate God, just as she invited us to do.

Our prayers are with Barbara’s brother, Thomas, and his family, the loved ones and friends she leaves behind and all who mourn.

In recent days it has been my honor on your behalf to share Holy Communion with Barbara, and in prayer and sacrament to commend her to her maker.  Arrangements are pending for the public funeral service to be held at Washington National Cathedral and a private graveside service in Philadelphia, followed thereafter by a memorial service at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston.  

We know that many in Barbara’s worldwide church family will be eager to take part in the public liturgies in celebration of her life.  Because of the coronavirus pandemic and current restrictions on travel and group gatherings, we will delay setting service dates for now.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates

Messages of condolence for Bishop Harris’s family may be sent in care of the Office of the Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, 138 Tremont Street, Boston MA 02111.  Memorial donations may be made to the Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center, PO Box 204, Greenfield N.H. 03047.  Online donations may be made via .March 13, 2020