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Mon, 02.12.1951

Gayle Elizabeth Harris, Priest born

Gayle Elizabeth Harris

*Gayle Elizabeth Harris was born on this date in 1951. She is a Black priest and bishop.

Harris was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and studied at the Lewis & Clark College and the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. Harris became a deacon in February 1981 and a priest in June 1982. She was assistant to Grace Church Van Vorst in Jersey City, New Jersey, and a diocesan Urban Resident at St. Philip's Church in Washington, D.C., from 1982 to 1984.

In 1984, Harris became priest-in-charge of Holy Communion Church in Washington, D.C., and simultaneously as a clergy member at Washington National Cathedral. She left Washington for Rochester, New York, in 1992 to become the rector of St. Luke and St Simon Cyrene's Church, where she remained until 2002. She was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity by the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in 2002 and an honorary Doctor of Humanity from the New England Law Boston. She was ordained as Bishop Suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts in 2003, succeeding Barbara Harris (no relation). This was the first time in the Episcopal Church in the United States that a woman was followed as bishop by another woman.

She also serves as a member of the board of the Old North Church Foundation, as vice president of the Episcopal City Mission, chairs the House of Bishops Pastoral Development Committee, and is the convenor of the Episcopal Bishops of African Descent. In 2018, Harris said that Israeli security personnel arrested a 3-year-old on the Temple Mount for bouncing a ball that fell among worshipers at the Western Wall. She saw Israeli soldiers respond to a comment by a 15-year-old boy by shooting him ten times in the back. Harris was accused by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and other Jewish organizations of fabricating "defamatory and incendiary" stories of "Israeli heartlessness and criminality" in support of an Episcopal Church General Convention resolution condemning Israel.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center said her "anti-Israel rhetoric borders on a 'blood libel.' Several weeks later, Harris apologized, stating, "I now acknowledge that I reported stories which I had heard and unintentionally framed them as though I had personally witnessed the alleged events." She added, "I did not take the opportunity to verify these stories. ... I was ill-advised to repeat the stories without verification, and I apologize for doing so."  

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