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Rogers Harris, first Episcopal bishop to allow female priests in Southwest Florida, dies

Bishop Rogers Sanders Harris, the first Episcopal bishop to allow female Episcopal priests in Southwest Florida, died Wednesday in South Carolina. He was 87.

He became bishop of the Diocese of Southwest Florida on Sept. 9, 1989, at the Cathedral Church of St. Peter in downtown St. Petersburg.

It was during his tenure that the diocese, which now includes 76 congregations along the Gulf Coast of Southwest Florida, from Brooksville to Marco Island, began to ordain female priests. At the time, the diocese was one of seven in the Episcopal Church that did not do so.

The first woman he ordained was the Rev. Carol Schwenke, who now is at the Church of the Ascension in Clearwater.

Bishop Harris was born on Feb. 22, 1930, in Anderson, S.C. He received his bachelor's degree at the University of the South in 1952. He served in the Korean War from 1952 to 1954 as a 1st Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.

His wife, Anne Harris, survives him.

Bishop Harris' funeral will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Columbia, S.C.