The Bishop Barbara Harris

Justice Project


Portrait Courtesy of Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Learn More About The Bishop Barbara Harris Justice Project

[Episcopal News Service] The Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing, an initiative of the Diocese of Atlanta that has served the past two years as a resource supporting The Episcopal Church’s racial reconciliation work, is about to expand its scope, and it will do so in the name of one of the church’s most heralded bishops. On Nov. 16, the Episcopal educational center will launch the Bishop Barbara C. Harris Justice Project to strengthen the church’s efforts to address environmental injustice, health inequities, mass incarceration, the death penalty, inhumane immigration policies and other social justice issues. Harris became the first female bishop in the Anglian Communion when she was consecrated as bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Massachusetts in 1989. Now retired at age 89, she continues to be an inspiration to Episcopalians and an example of faithful commitment to justice work, making her a natural choice for this honor, Atlanta Bishop Robert Wright said. Harris is able to “thread the needle” of being both kind and candid, Wright told Episcopal News Service, exemplifying “how to talk in terms of inequity and to talk in terms of justice and where we’ve missed building relationships of Christian affection.” She has spoken forcefully on issues of race, gender and sexual orientation while remaining personable and affable, Wright said, “and you just don’t see that every day.” Retired Bishop Suffragan Barbara Harris of the Diocese of Massachusetts. Harris is scheduled to join the ceremonies next week in Atlanta, which will include a forum discussion, a commemorative dinner and a worship service, with Wright preaching, at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.The day will be both a celebration of Harris’ life and the starting point for the new justice project named for her. “She totally embodies what this work is about, in her own journey and the way she has been living her life in the world as an advocate for justice and her courageousness and her trailblazing spirit,” said Catherine Meeks, executive director of the Atlanta-based Absalom Jones Center, which is located across the street from Morehouse College. Meeks analogizes the Harris Justice Project as the center “spreading its wings.” So far, the center has assembled online resources, organized events, developed curricula, and led classes and a pilgrimage intended to help Episcopalians and Episcopal clergy members reckon with their own racial biases and need for healing, in the context of The Episcopal Church’s Becoming Beloved Community framework. Meeks sees the next step as connecting that spiritual journey to the outside world. “The idea is that the justice project will be kind of the outreach arm of the center. A lot of our work has been focused on healing and inner work and we will continue doing that, but we are also getting ready to expand ourselves,” Meeks said in an interview with ENS. “Now that you’ve had some opportunity to heal, what do you do next?” Much of the center’s ongoing racial healing work will build on the example of an inaugural pilgrimage that brought 20 Episcopal priests and deacons to Atlanta in May. The participants were selected from all 20 dioceses in the church’s Province IV, which encompasses all or part of nine states in the Southeast. Future pilgrimages will draw from a broader pool of participants, and the center hopes clergy members will return to their dioceses and parishes and mobilize Episcopalians to start their own journeys toward racial healing.They also will be encouraged to consider how their faith calls them to work for justice on a range of social issues, Meeks said, because she thinks “racism is at the core of all those issues.” Starting with a focus on the environment, the Harris Justice Project is developing a course curriculum that will debut in the new year. The curriculum will highlight ways that environmental risks tend to disproportionally affect minority communities and people of color, especially in less-affluent neighborhoods, Meeks said. The Episcopal Church has endorsed such work through its General Convention, which in 2015 passed a resolution opposing environmental racism, “expressed in such ways as the locating of extraction, production, and disposal industries where they disproportionately harm neighborhoods inhabited by people of color and low income communities.” That resolution echoed a similar measure passed in 2000 that raised concerns about “the practice of locating polluting industries disproportionately near neighborhoods inhabited by people of color or the poor.” Racist roots of unjust environmental policies stem from “the ways in which we’ve constructed this country on ideas of supremacy, on ideas of some people are better than others,” Meeks said.She also knows that the people who come to the center’s classes bring a wide range of attitudes about race and society. Sometimes, it’s important for diverse groups first to unite around the basic Christian principle that “everybody on the planet is an equal person,” Meeks said. “That’s a starting place.” Wright sees the Absalom Jones Center’s mission as “increasing people’s capacity to have more courageous conversations,” with the hope that they will replicate those conversations when they return to their families, communities and congregations. It helps to spotlight people like Harris who have embodied that work. “Bishop Harris has been a courageous communicator, someone who has tried to create a brave space … as bishop and even beyond that,” Wright said. – David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at

Bishop Frank Kellogg Allan and

Elizabeth Ansley Allan Lecture

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Bishop Frank Kellogg Allan and Elizabeth Ansley Allan Lecture

The Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing is pleased to announce the establishment of the Bishop Frank Kellogg Allan and Elizabeth Ansley Allan Inaugural Lecture which honors them for their decades of generosity and service to the Episcopal Church, educating children and commitment to creating space where Beloved Community is invited to form. In addition to this, their love and commitment for the arts is clearly demonstrated by them through their personal engagement with them and their untiring efforts to encourage and create resources, opportunities and spaces for others to have greater access to the arts and the healing energy generated by them. Their more than fifty years of combined service in the Episcopal Church and in the world of education bear witness to the way in which they honored the call to be God's people in the world. Bishop Allan is responsible for the existence of the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center. The dream for this structure was born in his head and heart during the time that he served as Rector at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Macon, Georgia and conducting his visitation ministry at the Atlanta University Complex. He felt that students needed a place to gather, to worship, to study and to socialize. Though the dream continued to gain energy, he was not sure how such a project could be funded. Fortunately, he was encouraged to pursue funding from the Woodruff Foundation and while he was not sure that would be fruitful, it was and the two-hundred and fifty thousand dollar award made the project possible. Once these funds were secured, he was able to engage other donors leading to the construction of the lovely facility that currently provides space for students from the Atlanta University Complex, hosts groups from the surrounding community, and houses the Episcopal Campus Missioner and the Center for Racial Healing. Elizabeth Ansley Allan gave Bishop Frank the first check that he received for the construction of the Absalom Jones Center and she has continued to faithfully support the work of the Center, both the Campus Missioner and the Racial Healing work. She brings a great legacy of memories along with her spiritual and financial support as gift to the Center and all of the work is enriched by her presence. About the Honorees: Bishop Frank Kellogg Allan- Bishop Allan was born in Hammond, Indiana, but his family migrated to Atlanta where he graduated from Druid Hills High School and Emory College with a degree in English. He was Presbyterian until his college years and thought that most preachers were “ stiff.” While at Emory College he learned details about his great-great grandfather's life that resonated with his way of understanding the world. He was the founder of Knox College and an abolitionist in Galesburg, Illinois, one of the centers for the Underground Railroad. Bishop Allan began to explore the Episcopal Church through Holy Trinity Parish in Decatur, Georgia, and was later married to Elizabeth Ansley Allan at Holy Trinity. He went to the School of Theology at the University of the South and later was ordained as an Episcopal Priest. After decades of this work, he remarked to Elizabeth, “ that it never got boring.” He was consecrated as the 8th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta in 1989 and served until retirement in 2000. During this time he preached nearly every Sunday at (1)one of the Diocese's one-hundred and ten worshipping communities. There are too many stories to tell in this space about Bishop Allan to help create a proper mosaic of his life, but the following story serves as a good illustration. This event happened in the 1960s while he served as Rector at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Macon, Georgia during the era of the struggle for African American liberation being moved to the top of the list for the country, even in Macon where St. Paul's had a small group of black members. So one Sunday, he announced to the congregation that further integration and shifts toward racial justice and liberation for African Americans were imminent and critical. He was interrupted in mid-sentence by a woman named Hazel Burns, who reportedly asked, “Are you sayng that (as an all white church) we have been wrong all of these years?” He departed from his sermon and engaged in a dialogue with Hazel Burns and other parishioners joined in the conversation as it progressed. The Congregation is reported to have discussed, argued, and cried that day. But they battled it out and found a new vision. Later on, Burns was appointed as head lay person in the Parish, becoming the first woman at St. Paul's to hold that position. A part of this story was told by Rev. Martha Sterne, the first woman to be ordained by him after he became the 8th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, when she gave the Eulogy for him in 2019. He and Elizabeth started, “ The Work of Our Hands” a non-profit supporting art-oriented programs throughout the metro area. In addition to this he helped to found Georgia's only folk school at Camp Mikell which is in the northeastern part of the state. This school offers classes in weaving, woodworking, photography and stained glass techniques. Often upon getting antsy after long stretches of thinking, writing and reading, he once wrote, “when my hands get too soft and I get too much into my head and heart, I know that I need the spiritual renewal that comes with hands on, sometimes sweaty creativity.” He was a life-long wood turner. Bishop Allan cut a virtual template for how one negotiates retirement. He taught liturgy and church history at Candler School of Theology and became Episcopal Bishop in Residence in 2000 along with his work in the arts. The Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander, retired 9th Bishop of the Diocese of Atlanta and the Dean of the University of the South's School of Theology had this to say, “ Frank's number one legacy is his passion for social justice. That is justice as it relates to persons of color, support for historically black colleges, support for the ordination of women and full inclusion of gay and lesbian persons in the life of the church.” Everyone who encountered Bishop Frank Kellogg Allan could bear witness to the truth of Rev. Martha Sterne's assessment of his handling of the difficult conversation about race at St. Paul's which was shared. Sterne says, “on that day he was already displaying in his 30s, the style and grace under pressure which was characteristic of his more mature years. He was always direct in personal discourse and in his sermons. He was a deft organizer whether he was making dramatic changes in a church's social structure or mobilizing a collective of bookish, tools- challenged priests to build a Habitat-for- Humanity home.” The Absalom Jones Episcopal Center embraces his legacy and rejoices in being able to celebrate his life and work as a way to express the deepest gratitude to him for his vision and courage which led to making this space possible. Mrs. Elizabeth Ansley Allan- Elizabeth Ansley Allan was born at Emory Hospital where her father was a medical student. Except for two years in Boston, two years in Jacksonville and a few years in Tennessee, she has lived her entire life in Georgia. She attended public schools in (2) Decatur, graduating from high school there and entering Agnes Scott College in 1954. The summer following her first year in college seemed like a good time to take classes at Emory. While doing this, she met a young man in her Russian History class named, Frank Allan. He was an English major who was very interested in history and she was a history major with a great interest in literature and poetry so that worked out well. She says, “the rest is history.” One week after graduating Phi Beta Kappa Cum Laude from Agnes Scott, she married Frank and they moved to Sewanee for him to complete his final two years at the School of Theology. During this two years she taught third graders until he was ordained and they moved to his first parish in Dalton, Georgia. Although Elizabeth had always planned to teach history to high school students, she did not have a chance to do that until their four children were old enough to attend school. By that time they were in Macon, Georgia where she went back to school and earned a Master of Education from Mercer University and began her teaching career in Bibb County. She taught there and in Fulton County for twenty five years in public high schools. There were times when she was the only white teacher in predominantly African American schools in Bibb County and her quick wit, compassionate heart and great ability to explore and to be curious were great gifts in those settings and helped to allow her to make sure that the focus upon her students and their welfare was kept at the center of each day's work. While she was teaching she received a Fulbright Teaching Scholarship to spend the summer in Ubekistan. That was a very exciting assignment.She also enjoyed teaching in Georgia's Governor's Honors Program for four years when it was held in Valdosta State College. Elizabeth retired in 2000 also and began working to help start the new non-profit, “The Work of Our Hands.” She also was able to spend more time with her special interests in archeology and was able to participate over several summers on digs in Wales, France and along the Savannah River on the South Carolina side and writing poetry. While enjoying classess and workshops about reading and writing poetry, she and two friends took on the challenge of learning how to do self-publishing. They successfully published and marketed a small volume of illustrated poems titled, “On the Way to the Water Well” (in 2001). Along with this they were able to relax from so many obligations and to do some interesting traveling such as traveling across the United States following the Lewis and Clark Trail along the Missouri River and all over England chasing family roots. Also, there was the great joy of visiting their nine grandchildren. Elizabeth Ansley Allan is an amazing storyteller. Some of the most delightful moments that one can have is in spending time with her and being blessed by her stories which have wonderful detail and are never too long because she has so much enthusiasm in sharing them. She is a virtual walking book of memories and hearing her reflections on many subjects regarding historical moments in the Diocese is very fascinating. The Absalom Jones Episcopal Center revels in knowing that Elizabeth made the first contribution to Bishop Frank when he began to seek funding for the construction of a building which was to become the Center. She believed in that project and affirmed that by making that contribution before anyone else. Our deepest gratitude goes to her for that early gift and the many finaancial and other gifts of love and support that she has made throughout the years. She continues to support the work in numerous ways and it is indeed a great honor to design this lecture series as one part of the way to say “thank you.”(3)

The role of policing was imagined once.  Yet the horrors of the ongoing War on Drugs, mass incarceration, and the police brutality that resulted in the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many other black and brown men, women and children, require us as people of faith and good will to use our collective energy to reimagine the role of policing today.  The status quo is no longer an option. Interact with our panel of experts to start the conversation on change.

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Re-imagining Policing and Public Safety Project