Allen V. Harris is guided by prayerful discernment, passionate play, and prophetic witness. He finds much of his spiritual wisdom in scripture (particularly Isaiah 56:1-8, Luke 4:14-21, and Romans 12), conversations with friends, colleagues, and strangers on the street, as well as in the writings of many, especially Rumi, James Baldwin, Rev. Howard Thurman, Anne Lamott, and Walter Brueggemann. He loves to sing, to jog, to drink coffee and wine (not at the same time, however), and to listen intently, especially to children.
The Rev. Allen V. Harris currently serves as the Regional Minister for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Capital Area, one of 32 Regions in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. He began his ministry in the Capital Area June 15, 2015. He previously served as Senior Pastor of Franklin Circle Christian Church in Cleveland, Ohio for 14 years where he helped to transform that congregation's ministry within its richly diverse urban neighborhood just west of downtown Cleveland. Prior to that he served as Associate Pastor/Transitional Senior Pastor of the Park Avenue Christian Church of New York City for a decade, the congregation in which he was ordained into ministry in 1991.
Allen has gifts and graces in many areas, but is especially experienced in leading congregations and individuals through Anti-Racism/Pro-Reconciliation, Open & Affirming, and Accessible Congregational processes. He delights in and seeks to grow in transformational leadership, using social media for mission and advocacy, and in mentoring new clergy.
From 2000 to 2015 Allen was the Senior Pastor of Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Cleveland, Ohio. He was called there as a “Redevelopment Pastor” for a three-year term, offered as a carefully selected candidate by the Ohio Regional staff specifically to complement the needs of the Near West Side neighborhood which is racially diverse, politically active, with a growing LGBTQ population. His call to the historic, diverse, urban congregation in the spring of 2001 grew out of heartfelt hopes of helping the congregation to reclaim a clear sense of its identity and to renew its mission to the community. In April of 2004 the Region of Ohio and the congregation affirmed the work and he continued as their fully settled Senior Pastor. Allen and the congregation successfully revitalized the congregation and it became a prophetic witness and compassionate center for those who participated in the congregation, for the community around it, and for many near and far.
Within the Christian Church of Ohio (Disciples of Christ) in Ohio Allen served on the Commission on the Ministry, served as Co-Director of Advance Conference along with the Rev. Margot Connor, and as President of the Adult Conference of 2011. Allen has served on several non-profit boards, including the Community Advisory Board of Lutheran Hospital, Interfaith Partners In Action of Cleveland (InterAct Cleveland) where he served as Board President. He is a proud graduate of the Neighborhood Leadership Institute (Class 17), all in Cleveland, Ohio.
Allen had moved to Cleveland from New York City with his partner (now husband), the Rev. Craig Hoffman, in 2000 after a 10-year pastorate at Park Avenue Christian Church in Manhattan. Allen was privileged to serve as Associate Pastor with the Rev. John Wade Payne, Senior Pastor, for nine of those ten years. While serving as Associate Pastor at Park Avenue Christian Allen was ordained into ministry on Pentecost Sunday, May 19, 1991. His journey to be ordained was one of both exquisite beauty and profound pain. It also paralleled in chronology the events surrounding the contested nomination of the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon as General Minister and President of the denomination, whose candidacy was defeated at the General Assembly in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1991 in large part because of an orchestrated campaign of homophobia because Rev. Kinnamon and his (then) wife, Katherine Kinnamon were supporters of GLAD Alliance.
While Allen was not the “first” in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to be ordained openly LGBTQ, nor was he the “first” to be hired in a first parish setting as openly LGBTQ, he does appear to be the first to do both, and has been out as a fully-embodied queer man in all of his ministerial settings since graduating seminary.
Allen has a deep dedication to both the Regional and General expressions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). As a youth he served on the Youth Commission for the Tres Rios Area (1978-81), then the Regional Youth Council for the Southwest Region (1981-1982), and then on the General Youth Council (1980-1982), a position that allowed him to join in the planning for the Youth Ministry Congress at Texas Christian University (Ft. Worth) in the summer of 1981. As an adult, Allen has also served on the General Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), being chosen and elected to be on both the Administrative Committee and on the Executive Committee. Allen has attended every biennial General Assembly of the Christian Church since 1979 (St. Louis), having offered Resource Groups and having been in leadership for Assembly worship services there.
In his ministry at Park Avenue Christian Church Allen spent time studying and developing skills in working with multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, economically-diverse congregations. He continues to use these gifts and graces in ministry. He also developed in New York City his deep commitment to ecumenical and interfaith work, serving on both the local Yorkville Interfaith Council and the Spiritual Rainbow, a coalition of interfaith LGBTQ leaders. He would also later be a part of a similar group in Cleveland, Ohio, the Spiritual Leaders Group of the LBGT Center of Cleveland.
Prior to being called to Park Avenue Christian Church, Allen became an early leader in the the Gay, Lesbian, and Affirming Disciples Alliance (now the Disciples LGBTQ+ Alliance). He served on the GLAD Alliance Council for several terms and was founding co-editor of the GLAD Alliance Crossbeams newsletter with the Rev. Michael Schloff (later serving in that role with the Rev. Jon Lacey). Along with the Rev. Laurie Rudel of Seattle, Washington, Allen was one of the founding “Developers” of the Open & Affirming Ministries Program of GLAD Alliance. He served for almost ten years as the one of its Developers. Using this wisdom and experience, Allen helped to guide both Park Avenue Christian Church and Franklin Circle Christian Church and now offers himself as a resource to congregations and institutions in the Christian Church Capital Area.
Allen was born and raised in Roswell, New Mexico to Sara Vernon Harris, a lifelong nurse, and Lt. Col. Wesley Dalton Harris, a career soldier in the U.S. Army. He received his B.S. in Religious Education at Phillips University, Enid, Oklahoma and his M.Div., with a concentration in Religious Education, from Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University, in Ft. Worth, Texas. While at Brite he served for over three years as Assistant to the Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Grapevine, Texas under the mentorship of Rev. Eleanor Cozad Cherryholmes. He has authored articles in several journals, including DisciplesWorld, Homily, and Open Hands. He also has numerous liturgies publishes in Shaping Sanctuary: Proclaiming God's Grace in an Inclusive Church, edited by Kelly Turney [Chicago: Welcoming Church Movement, 2000; 424 pp., ISBN 0970156804]. Allen has had a sermon selected for an upcoming issue of The Living Pulpit.
Allen and his husband, Craig, remodeled a historic 1880's "folk Victorian" home on Cleveland’s Near West Side using environmentally-friendly and sustainable techniques and building materials. Both are committed to sustainability and creation care lifestyles. Craig serves as the Executive Assistant to the Senior Pastor at Old Stone Presbyterian Church in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.
The Rev. Dr. Mary Kay Totty, Allen’s best friend from seminary days, serves as Senior Pastor of Dumbarton United Methodist Church in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. She and Allen enjoy weekly Sunday night dinners together now that he lives nearby.
(This biographical statement provided by Allen V. Harris.)
Biography Date: June 2017