A native of Philadelphia, Barbara Clementine Harris graduated from the Charles Morris Price School of Advertising and Journalism. She joined Joseph V. Baker Associates Inc., a national public relations firm headquartered in Philadelphia in 1949. She was president of the firm in 1968 when she joined the Sun Company as community relations consultant. She later was named manager of community and urban affairs and headed Sun's Public Relations Department from May 1973 until becoming a senior staff consultant at Sun's corporate headquarters in January 1977.
She attended Villanova University and studied at the Urban Theology Unit in Sheffield, England. She is also a graduate of the Pennsylvania Foundation for Pastoral Counseling. Ordained to the diaconate in September 1979, she was ordained a priest in 1980.
She served as priest-in-charge of St. Augustine of Hippo Church in Norristown, Penn., from 1980-1984. She also served as chaplain to the Philadelphia County prisons, and as counsel to industrial corporations for public policy issues and social concerns. In 1984, she was named executive director of the Episcopal Church Publishing Company and publisher of The Witness magazine. In 1988, she took on additional duties as interim rector of Philadelphia's Church of the Advocate.
In September 1988, she was elected suffragan (assisting) bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts. On February 11, 1989, she was consecrated a bishop, the first woman to be ordained to the episcopate in the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Bishop Harris has been active in professional and community organizations, as well as in national church service. A member of the Union of Black Episcopalians and a past president of the Episcopal Urban Caucus, she has represented the Episcopal Church on the board of the Prisoner Visitation and Support Committee and was a member of the Episcopal Church's Standing Commission on Anglican and International Peace with Justice Concerns. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., and is a past vice president of Episcopal City Mission, an independent agency of the Diocese of Massachusetts working for and on behalf of the urban poor.
Bishop Harris has received honorary degrees from numerous colleges, universities and theological schools, including Yale University and the Church Divinity School of the Pacific.
She retired on Nov. 1, 2002. Beginning in the summer of 2003, she began serving as an assisting bishop to Bishop John B. Chane in the Diocese of Washington (D.C.).