John T. W. Harmon ordained 14th bishop of Arkansas

Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas
Posted Jan 8, 2024

On Saturday, January 6, the Rt. Rev. John Toga Wea Harmon was ordained and consecrated as the 14th bishop of the Diocese of Arkansas at a service held at Episcopal Collegiate School in Little Rock. Harmon becomes the first Liberian-born diocesan bishop in the United States.

“I want to give thanks to God for this moment, for the people of Arkansas, for the parishes that have nourished me,” Harmon said. “And for my parents, who are no longer here. They were my first teachers.”

The Rt. Rev. Jeff Fisher, Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Texas, served as the chief consecrator, and the Rt. Rev. Nathan Baxter, tenth Bishop of Central Pennsylvania, was the preacher. Also serving as co-consecrators were the Rt. Rev. Gayle Harris (Bishop Suffragan of Massachusetts, resigned); the Rt. Rev. Deon Johnson (Bishop of Missouri); the Rt. Rev. Larry Benfield (Bishop of Arkansas); The Rt. Rev. Mariann Budde (Bishop of Washington); the Rt. Rev. Phoebe Roaf (Bishop of West Tennessee); and the Rt. Rev. Becca Middeke-Conlin (ELCA Bishop of the Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod). More than 15 other bishops and 120 priests and deacons were also in attendance, representing dioceses in the United States and Liberia. About 1,000 members of the public also attended the service.

Harmon was elected Bishop of Arkansas during an electing convention on August 19, 2023, at Trinity Cathedral in Little Rock. He was most recently the rector of Trinity Church in Washington, D.C. He and his wife, Keeva, have been married for 30 years. They are the parents of Joshua, Jarena, and Justin. Harmon was born in Liberia.

When he was ordained as bishop, Harmon was wearing a special cross. “The cross is a replica of my great-grandmother’s cross,” Harmon said, with some extra symbolism added – a star for Epiphany, a seashell, a traditional head ring used for carrying heavy burdens. “My mother gave it to me, and I wear it under my vestments.”

On Sunday morning, January 7, Harmon was seated as bishop at Trinity Cathedral in Little Rock, where he also preached.

“All that we are called to be and do in this world is about Jesus Christ,” Harmon said during his sermon. “We’ve got real work to do. It is the work of compassion, it is the work of love. Showing the face of Christ to everyone we meet.”

Harmon is also the principal visionary and co-founder of the Episcopal Service Corps (ESC), a federation of young adult service programs across the Episcopal Church. He also founded the Trinity Development Corporation (TDC) to help empower the underserved to achieve self-sufficiency through counseling, education, and better access to adequate health care. During the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, TDC was a leading provider of HIV/AIDS education and prevention services, operated six centers, and realized about three million dollars in funding.

“My commitment to justice, transformation, and walking with those who feel and have been oppressed has taught me that people want to be heard and listened to. By encouraging collaboration with those who differ from us and by creating sacred spaces for difficult and life-giving conversations, we encourage and help people engage in the critical and necessary work of respecting the dignity of all people.”