From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopalians: Massachusetts celebrates the making of a new bishop suffragan

Date Fri, 24 Jan 2003 18:36:41 -0500

January 24, 2003


Episcopalians: Massachusetts celebrates the making of a new 
bishop suffragan

by Tracy J. Sukraw

(ENS) Nearly 1,500 bishops, clergy members, lay persons and 
ecumenical guests from across the country braved Boston's bitter 
cold to gather for the three-hour liturgy at which Gayle 
Elizabeth Harris became the 981st bishop in the Episcopal Church 
on Saturday, January 18 at Trinity Church in Boston.  
Harris,formerly of Rochester, New York, will serve as a bishop 
suffragan in the Diocese of Massachusetts alongside diocesan 
bishop M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE and bishop suffragan Bud Cederholm.

Gayle Harris is the 11th woman--and the second African-American 
and third woman of color--to be ordained a bishop in the 
Episcopal Church, out of a total of 14 female bishops in the 
worldwide Anglican Communion. In the weeks preceding her 
ordination and consecration, the bishop-elect said she hoped the 
day would be a celebration of "all of us coming together as the 
people of God who is in the midst of us, who loves us and 
forgives us, who calls us to do justice and love mercy."

Before the service began, the 450-person procession stopped 
traffic and turned a few heads in Boston's Copley Square as it 
made its way from the vesting area at the Marriott Copley Place 
Hotel, through the adjacent shopping mall, then across a busy 
intersection and plaza into Trinity Church. The Rt. Rev. Arthur 
B. Williams Jr., recently retired bishop suffragan of the 
Diocese of Ohio and the vice president of the House of Bishops, 
was the chief consecrator.

In his sermon, Bishop Suffragan Chester L. Talton of the Diocese 
of Los Angeles, preached of a faithful God who "desires to put 
things right for God's people."

"Nations are at war with one another, it seems almost as never 
before, and we are preparing to engage in what I believe is an 
immoral war against a small nation whose leader is himself 
immoral towards his own people," Talton said to applause from 
the congregation.  "Gayle, I think that God calls you to a time 
such as this, to speak to the powerful on behalf of those who 
hold little or no power."

'Prayer is your life-line'

Perhaps the service's most poignant moment came when the 
Anglican Communion's first woman bishop, Barbara C. 
Harris--Massachusetts' recently retired suffragan, whom Gayle 
Harris succeeds--gave the bishop-elect her charge, speaking 
sister to sister of a shared heritage and the joys and 
challenges ahead.

"Your best effortswill not always be understood or welcomed.  
Yet you must proclaim in word and action redemption, liberation, 
hope and love, but also judgment, remindingu us that we cannot 
go back to the garden of Eden but that we must embrace the new 
age, not knowing what its final shape will be," Barbara Harris 
said.  "But we have come this far by faith and we trust our God 
for the next step of the journey.  You must not demur from 
urging us out of the comfortable pew and challenging us to seek 
the welfare of the city and suburbs alike.  For the problems of 
the city quickly become those of suburban communities.

"In this complex and diverse diocese, on some days you will see 
your role with great clarity and you may be tempted to 
paraphrase Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady' and say: 
I've got it, by Jove I think I've got it.' And on others, 
probably more numerous I suspect, you will feel like you are 
trying to put pantyhose on an octopus." The bishop's ring, mitre 
and crozier are only symbols, Barbara Harris said. "Remember, my 
sister, it is prayer that is your life and prayer that is your 


--Tracy J. Sukraw is editor of the Episcopal Times, Diocese of 

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