- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 7, 2002

Episcopal conservatives privately are gnashing their collective teeth over the appointment of a liberal, divorced, female prelate as assistant bishop for the Diocese of Washington.
"It is wretched. It is embarrassing," said Diane Knippers, an Episcopalian who heads the Institute of Religion and Democracy in the District. "Here we have this high-profile diocese and they appoint someone stuck in the left from the 1960s. She's an insult to mainstream Episcopalians."
Retired Episcopal Bishop Barbara Harris, 72, will start work in the District next summer, says an announcement released Monday by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. She will live in the District for one week each month while maintaining her principal residence in her hometown of Philadelphia. She will consult by phone from Philadelphia for an additional week each month.
The new Episcopal bishop of Washington, the Rt. Rev. John B. Chane, announced the appointment Monday, calling Bishop Harris a "prophetic presence."
"[She] will address the issues that affect the urban core of the city and will have a significant impact on the political life of the federal government and the larger church," he said. "Barbara will encourage the congregations of the diocese to more effectively understand and address poverty, racism, war, international concerns and the need to seek reconciliation within the life of the Christian community and the broader interfaith community."
Bishop Harris' 1988 election as the world's first female bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion set off shock waves among traditionalists. She never had attended seminary nor earned a college degree, and her sole academic training consisted of one liturgics course and two Bible courses at Villanova University.
Before becoming a priest in 1980, she worked for public relations firms in Philadelphia. When elected bishop, her pastoral experience consisted of a few years at a mission church and four months as an interim pastor.
After the election, she served in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts as suffragan bishop, which is second in command to the diocesan bishop.
"She's worse than Jane Dixon," said online journalist David Virtue, originator of Virtuosity Digest, a widely read Episcopal Web site. He was referring to the recently retired Bishop Dixon, whose lawsuit against a conservative parish in Acokeek ended with the eviction of its rector a year ago.
Chuck Nalls, a canon lawyer in the District who represented the Prince George's County parish, called Bishop Harris "crude and intolerant."
Mr. Nalls cited a comment Bishop Harris made at the Episcopal General Convention in Philadelphia, where she told conservatives opposing women's ordination to "in God's name, go" from the denomination.
"For a bishop who has claimed an outreach to the marginalized traditionalists in his diocese, this is not an appointment that bodes well," he said, referring to Bishop Chane.
Bishop Harris is expected to be retained at least a year until the diocese elects a full-time suffragan bishop to assist Bishop Chane. But the idea of a short tenure did not mollify Mrs. Knippers.
"We just had a Republican sweep of the country," she said, "and they think Barbara Harris will have something to say to Washington, D.C.?"


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