Gayle Harris, ordained as bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Massachusetts in 2003, is set to come to the Diocese of Virginia in the coming weeks. Anglican Watch is, to put it mildly, underwhelmed by the news.
Harris, no relation to her predecessor Barbara Harris, has an outstanding resume that touches all the bases.
And being African-American, her choice no doubt is in part an effort to address the appalling sleight of candidates to come from the Virginia nominations committee.
That slate consists of four of the most boring, straight, white, cisgender men imaginable. Indeed, it would be hard to find worse.
But other issues loom. Harris brought the wrath of many Jews down on her head after falsely claiming she witnessed Israeli brutality against Palestinians.
While we applaud her enthusiasm for human rights, we are talking about major international issues. To blindly spout fabrications like this is profoundly troubling.
Even worse, her subsequent apology is thin and possibly qualifies as a fauxpology. Specifically, she says:
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.
So let’s get this straight.
She fell into a trance, and the Delphic Oracle took over and made it sound like she had personally witnessed these allegations.
We don’t think so.
A lie is a lie, and Harris refuses to own hers.
However, she is correct on one topic: greater responsibility comes with greater power.
Yet in this regard, she is fully aware of Episcopal priest Bob Malm’s perjury, including during her time as bishop suffragan of Massachusetts. But just like the morally bankrupt bishop Alan Gates, she has utterly ignored the matter.
So, Harris will lie to help the Palestinians, even to the point of engaging in blood libel of the Jewish people. But she won’t lift a finger to address corruption in her diocese. So much for her commitment to social justice.
That’s typical of the denomination: Ignore internal corruption while pretending that the larger world cares what 1.5 million overwhelmingly white and old Americans think about Jewish state relations.
Thus, she is the epitome of an organizationally narcissistic church that is largely irrelevant and morally broken.
So what will Harris bring to DioVA? We are not sure.
But we believe that past performance is a likely indicator of future results. So we think we’ll hear much Jesus-babble about social justice and human rights, but not much else.
We’d also point out that the Malm matter is back in front of the diocese. Malm and church attorney Jeffery Chiow now are the subjects of multiple criminal complaints.
How will Harris respond? Likely with the same approach as she has so far—utter silence.
In short, Anglican Watch fears Harris’ main selling point is that she is African-American.
Beyond that, she sounds like Bishop Mark Stevenson: Great resume, no substance. And while Jesus may have hung out with tax collectors, say something Stevenson doesn’t like and see just how fast he blocks you on Facebook. Stevenson is a leader in churchchianity. Unfortunately, he is not a Christian. And Gayle Harris appears cut from the same cloth.
Might she step up to the plate and show leadership in wading through the mess that is the Diocese of Virginia? Maybe. But we doubt it.
The good news is that, at age 71, she will have to retire in the next year or so. That won’t necessarily mean she can’t serve in various roles, but the chances of her settling in for the long haul are slim.