Dr. Otto Harris to Lead Diversity Initiative

August 1, 2019

By: Melissa McGill

Dr. Otto Harris will lead the Comprehensive Plan of Inclusiveness, a conference-wide initiative centered around promoting diversity in Western North Carolina. This effort is the result of a grassroots movement emerging from a variety of places in our conference, from our churches, pastors, episcopal office, and cabinet, to continue and strengthen our work of living into our calling to be an inclusive church, and to address the changing demographics of our communities. 
“In our current environment, we need to have conversations about racism and to hear the voices who speak out. It’s also important that we do more than condemn racism when we see it, we need to be in engaged in creative, strategic, and constructive steps in helping to move us forward into a more integrated society,” shared Bishop Leeland. “It’s easy to condemn it. It’s more difficult to pour our energy into doing something about it.”
“In hearing this vision, I believe this is a way the Church can be intentional about leading transformation in our communities to reflect more of what God has for God’s people,” said Dr. Harris. 
Dr. Harris is the senior pastor of Saint Mark’s United Methodist Church in Charlotte and is an ordained elder in the Western North Carolina Conference. He has a bachelor’s degree from the North Carolina A&T State University, a Master of Divinity degree from the Hood Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Educational Studies with a concentration in Cultural Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Dr. Harris is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He also serves as an adjunct faculty member of the Hood Theological Seminary along with numerous leadership positions in our conference and denomination. 
Nine teams are being formed to address the unique aspects of how we can continue to become a more just and inclusive conference. These teams will work to address topics including educational work around racism, seminary visits, the appointment process, church staff positions, brief internships for seminary students, and changing neighborhoods.