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Bishop's Crosses Awarded to Nell Gibson and the Rev. Canon Susan Harriss

November 4, 2016

At the Diocesan Convention in Tarrytown this evening, Bishop Dietsche awarded the Bishop's Cross to two outstanding members of the diocese, Nell Braxton Gibson and the Rev. Canon Susan C. Harris. The citations are below and can also be downloaded as pdfs from the links in the right sidebar.

2015 Higher Res Episcopal Logo

NELL BRAXTON GIBSON

From time to time God raises up among us people of such brilliant self offering and strength of character that they themselves become the bright light by which others may see more clearly.  Nell is that for us.  Born in the segregated south to educator parents, lifetime members of the NAACP, she became involved at an early age in the student movement of the Civil Rights struggle.  Galvanized by the assassination of family friend Medgar Evers, the Braxton family’s commitment to overcoming racial injustice became Nell’s lifelong resolve.  This has not been without cost.  She spent time in the Fulton County Jail for her protest outside the Georgia State Capitol, and was arrested protesting the South African Consulate in New York City.  

Nell has fully engaged at every level the struggle for equality and civil rights in the United States and in our Church, but was also moved to work in support of newly independent African states.  From college she traveled to Tanganyika in this cause, and later to Namibia and South Africa.  There, she was made by Archbishop Desmond Tutu a member of his steering committee of international religious leaders, working toward the end of apartheid. 

Among the many positions she has filled in this diocese she has chaired the Committee on Reparations for Slavery.  She was also Associate General Secretary for Inclusiveness and Justice at the National Council of Churches, and Coordinator of the Episcopal Urban Caucus.  Among her many honors she has received the President’s Award and the Dr. Verna Dozier Honor Award from the National Union of Black Episcopalians, of which she is a life member; a Trinity Parish Transformational Fellowship; and the Episcopal Church House of Deputies Medallion for Exemplary Service.  She also carried an Honorary Doctor of Divinity from Berkeley Divinity School.

In her riveting memoir, Too Proud to Bend, Nell likens her generation of Civil Rights soldiers to the Moses generation which crossed the harsh wilderness of struggle and resolve that they might make possible the Joshuas who are privileged to enter the Promised Land.  Nell’s life does honor to all who have given themselves to such larger cause, and by doing so, have brought the dawn of a new day to suffering people. 

Therefore, in recognition and gratitude for her service to the gospel imperative of racial equality and social justice, her service to her diocese and the larger Church, offered to the glory of God, we, on this 4th day of November 2016, in the fifth year of our consecration, do award her

THE BISHOP’S CROSS

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The Right Reverend Andrew ML Dietsche
XVI Bishop of New York

2015 Higher Res Episcopal Logo

SUSAN CAROL HARRISS

In her ordained life, Susan has given service to, and brought leadership to, some of the most substantial and complex institutions in the Diocese of New York. After three years serving as Chaplain to Bishop Paul Moore, she was called to positions at Saint James and Saint Michael’s parishes in Manhattan, the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, and for the last sixteen years as Rector of Christ’s Church in Rye, New York. Susan has also served on the Diocesan Board of Trustees, the Board of Episcopal Charities, and the Board of the National Association of Episcopal Schools. She Co-Chaired the Special Committee to Review the Assessment Process, and Co-Chaired the reconstituted Adjustment Review Board. Susan chaired the Diocesan Leadership Commission and the Racism Task Force, and has been Delegate to the Synod of Province II and Alternate Deputy to General Convention.

Susan’s witness is synonymous with institutional health and good governance. But in every place she has by her life proclaimed the deepest desire of God and love of Jesus which underlie and give coherence and purpose to the structures by which we live. The thread which winds through her life as a disciple and priest is her formation in a family committed to service to the poor and most vulnerable among us, through their life and ministry in the Salvation Army in some of the most troubled places of urban America. There she learned the love of Jesus. There she was steeped in the principles of gospel love for all of God’s little ones which have marked everything she has done.

Of the human longing of the soul for God, a longing deeper than words or understanding, Susan wrote: “The problem with spiritual hunger is that it so often presents itself as a hunger for something else. Our endless searching for personal perfection; for the right outfit; for the right “balance” of home and work all belie a need for something else that we can scarcely recognize. … What they seek without exactly knowing it is the eternal: something, someone who will outlive and outlast them, in whose service they might grow and find peace. God.”

Therefore, in recognition and gratitude for her witness to the effective leadership of church institutions wedded to the love and knowledge of Jesus, for her service to parish, diocese and the larger Church, offered to the glory of God, we, on this 4th day of November 2016, in the fifth year of our consecration, do award her

THE BISHOP’S CROSS

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The Right Reverend Andrew ML Dietsche
XVI Bishop of New York

Nell Braxton Gibson
The Rev. Canon Susan C. Harriss
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