[Diocese of Massachusetts] After nearly 20 years of service in the Diocese of Massachusetts, Bishop Suffragan Gayle E. Harris has announced her upcoming retirement. She plans to complete her work in the diocese as of Dec. 31 of this year and then take sabbatical time ahead of her official retirement date of March 31, 2023.
Harris was elected bishop suffragan by the Diocese of Massachusetts in June 2002 and was ordained and consecrated in January 2003. She reaches the church’s mandatory retirement age of 72 in 2023.
“One of my most dearest friends, whenever he is asked how he is doing, replies, ‘I am richly blessed!’ I have indeed been richly blessed and honored to serve God with you for these past 20 years as bishop suffragan. Amidst times of joy and sorrow, we have together found opportunities to incarnate the Gospel of love and justice and our diocesan mission strategy. And I give thanks to God for the partnership in ministry, support and encouragement I received from Bishop Alan Gates over the past eight years. It is now time for me to transition to retirement from my position,” Harris said.
At her request, in lieu of a diocese-wide gathering to celebrate her ministry, leave-taking events will be scheduled with groups with which she has worked closely. There will also be a time of recognition during Diocesan Convention proceedings on Oct. 29.
“Bishop Harris has served faithfully and tirelessly, with continually widening circles of responsibility throughout her tenure. Her contribution to the leadership of our diocese will be deeply missed. I invite all who have been blessed in some way through her presence and ministry, in our diocesan community and the wider church, to join me in offering prayers of thanksgiving for her years of service,” Massachusetts Bishop Diocesan Alan M. Gates said.
Gates will not call for the election of a successor bishop suffragan, opting instead to appoint an assistant bishop.
In The Episcopal Church, an assistant bishop is appointed from among those who are already bishops and who meet eligibility requirements outlined in church canons. An assistant bishop serves under the direction of the bishop diocesan for an agreed-upon and renewable term, providing assigned episcopal services and support within the bishop diocesan’s jurisdiction. (This is different from a bishop suffragan, who is elected as such by a diocese and then serves there in an assisting role and whose tenure is not determined by the bishop diocesan.)
Following the process required by the canons of The Episcopal Church, the diocesan Standing Committee has given its consent for Gates to ask the Diocesan Convention to approve the creation of the assistant bishop position and authorize him to make the appointment. Diocesan Convention meets Oct. 28-29 in Danvers.