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The Rev. Barbara Harris, the first elected woman bishop...

By
ANDRA VARIN

BOSTON -- The Rev. Barbara Harris, the first elected woman bishop in the 450-year history of the Episcopal Church, has been confirmed by a majority of the dioceses of the U.S. church, it was announced Tuesday.

The election must still be ratified by the church's bishops, some of whom oppose ordination of women and question Harris's experience, but officials said a majority of the prelates 'is expected to respond postively.'

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The bishops voted in 1976 to affirm the ordination of women to all orders of the church, including the episcopate.

Harris, 58, an associate pastor of the Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia, was elected Sept. 24 as suffragan bishop for the 96,000-member Diocese of Massachusetts at a special church convocation. She narrowly defeated a male priest on the eighth ballot.

A church spokesman said 60 of the standing committees in each of the U.S. church's 118 dioceses confirmed Harris's election by Tuesday and said a final tally was expected within two weeks.

A suffragan bishop is an assisting bishop who may serve in the post for life.

Harris would assist Bishop David E. Johnson as spiritual leader of the nation's largest Episcopalian diocese. She is to be consecrated Feb. 11 in Boston.

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The Massachusetts diocese is composed of 190 parishes in the eastern part of the state.

'She is the first woman bishop in the Anglican Church communion worldwide in 450-some odd years,' said Jim Solheim, director of communications for the Massachusetts diocese.

'This is big history,' Solheim said.

Solheim declined to disclose the exact vote of the standing committees but said the ballots were running 'two to one in her favor.'

The American church, one of 27 independent Episcopal churches worldwide that make up the 70 million Anglican Communion, is composed of dioceses in the United States, Central America and the Caribbean.

Each church elects its own bishops.

Solheim said 'only a handful' of Episcopal churches permit the ordination of women in any capacity and that the Massachusetts diocese is the first to approve a female bishop. However, the churches of Canada and New Zealand have also said they will soon elect women bishops, he said.

Solheim said letters asking each bishop to approve Harris's ordination were sent out Tuesday as soon as she received a majority vote of the standing committees, which are each composed of four clergy and four lay members.

'What we want to make sure of now is that we have a majority of the bishops so it doesn't interfere with the date of the consecration,' he said.

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'There are a few bishops who have gone public as opposing it, but we don't see any resistance there at all,' said Solheim. 'They're (bishops)) on record since 1976 as favoring women as bishops.'

The Massachusetts diocese made history in 1962 when the Rev. John Burgess became the church's first black suffragan bishop. Harris is also black.

Designers also must live with the new shapes, now created on sophisticated computers able to present them from any angle, as well as color and shade them before the first dollop of clay is shaped for a mockup.

'New things take some getting used to,' Jordan said. 'We have to put them in front of us and live with them to know whether it wears well, or whether it's faddish.'

Consumer clinics play a large part in determining what customers want. But often those clinics don't even show the public a new car.

'We want to know about the guy,' said one of Jordan's top designers. 'What he listens to, what he wears, how he furnishes his apartment. Don't ask him any questions about cars. He just can't figure three or four years ahead.'

But sometimes, the consumer's voice is drowned out by that of top management, which directs designers to follow other priorities, such as fuel efficiency.

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That's what happened in the early 1980s, when GM was planning its new luxury coupes, like the Cadillac Eldorado, which bowed in 1986.

Those cars were made significantly smaller, based on predictions of steadily rising gasoline prices.Their poor sales and visual similarity to cheaper models taught GM a valuable lesson.

'We did so many things right, but it finally caught up with us on those cars,' Jordan said, with another GM designer adding that 'the corporation held our feet to the fire' in terms of overall size restrictions.

'But that's no excuse for doing it that way,' Jordan said. 'Americans grew up on longer, lower and wider. That was the secret. When it became shorter, higher and narrower, it became a problem.'

Yet that experience worked to the advantage of GM designers because they gained more influence in establishing future design parameters, such as longer wheelbases, the use of more glass, and more spacious interiors with better ergonomics.

'The look-alike problem worked for us,' Jordan said. 'It allowed us to give our new cars more specifics than we ever had before.'

Some of the efforts by Jordan and his staff will take to the roads next year, with a new front-drive minivan line. A line of large, rear-drive sedans and wagons is due about a year later.

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'I'm excited about some outstanding designs we have,' Jordan said, before hosting a tour of the design studios and dramatically uncovering a row of future models parked in a hallway.

'We always look for that one theme or that one design direction that when you apply it, it obsoletes everything else,' he said. 'Nobody buys anything else except that car -- that's the theory. That's the carrot that's hanging out there.'

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