Lisa Sharon Harper

Chief Church Engagement Officer

From Ferguson to New York to Germany, Lisa has been leading trainings and helping mobilize clergy and community leaders around shared values for the common good, with a focus on racial justice. Prior to joining Sojourners, Lisa was the founding executive director of New York Faith & Justice — an organization at the hub of a new ecumenical movement to end poverty in New York City. In that capacity, she helped establish Faith Leaders for Environmental Justice, a citywide collaborative effort of faith leaders committed to leveraging the power of their constituencies and their moral authority in partnership with communities bearing the weight of environmental injustice. She also organized faith leaders to speak out for immigration reform and organized the South Bronx Conversations for Change, a dialogue-to-change project between police and the community.

Harper’s faith-rooted approach to advocacy and organizing has activated people across the U.S. and around the world to address structural and political injustice as an outward demonstration of their personal faith.

Asked why she does what she does, Lisa Sharon Harper’s answer is clear: “So that the church might be worthy of the moniker ‘Bride of Christ’.” Through preaching, writing, training, network development, and public witness Ms. Harper engages the church in the work of justice and peacemaking. For example: Ms. Harper helped build the Evangelical Immigration Table from 2011-2013. She fasted for 21 days as a core faster with the 2013 immigration reform Fast for Families, trained and catalyzed evangelicals in St. Louis to engage the 2014 push for justice in Ferguson and did the same in Baltimore in 2015. Harper was recognized in 2015 as one of “50 Powerful Women Religious Leaders to Celebrate on International Women’s Day” by the Huffington Post.

She earned her master’s in human rights from Columbia University in New York City and is currently in the process of ordination in the Evangelical Covenant Church.

Events

Lisa is currently on a book tour for her newly-released book, The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right. See more details here.

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Posts By This Author

Flint and The Big Lie

by Lisa Sharon Harper 04-18-2016
Flint water plant

Flint water plant. ehrlif / Shutterstock.com

The failure to provide clean water to Flint, Mich., residents has sacrificed their safety and hindered their access to one of the most basic human needs — water. It also drastically diminished the capacity of citizens to exercise leadership and stewardship because lead poisoning stunts victims’ brain development. Plus, the town of Flint, itself, is the “least of these” in the state of Michigan. It is the state’s poorest city.

In 'The Story of God,' Finding the Story of Us

by Lisa Sharon Harper 04-01-2016

Image via 'The Story of God'

I caught up with executive producers McCreary, James Younger, and Moran Freeman on the red carpet premiere of The Story of God in New York City.

“People don’t see the commonalities between religions,” Younger explained. “They just think of their faith as being the one that has the answers. Other faiths? They don’t know two things about them.”

BLOCKED: Arizona's Not the Only State Turning People Away at the Polls

by Lisa Sharon Harper 03-24-2016

This week, as the five candidates still in the running for the White House turned their campaigns westward; vying for top spots in Arizona, Idaho, and Utah, pundits wondered aloud if voter suppression would make an impact on the general election. At the same time, miles-long lines formed in Arizona’s Maricopa County, the most populous and racially diverse county in the state. According to reports, lines of voters were still winding around blocks and parking lots even as news stations were projecting winners. Why? Because Maricopa County had reduced its polling places by 70 percent between 2012 and 2016, from 200 polling places to 60. How could they do that?

The Seeker’s Journey

by Lisa Sharon Harper 03-15-2016

Seekers are open, curious, earnest explorers. They are on the hunt for truth, meaning, and purpose. They are in touch with the questions of their lives. They are in touch with their need. There is a profound humility in the seeking process. To be a seeker, one must admit she is not God. He must acknowledge that there is something to understand and experience beyond his current reality. In The Story of God, we become seekers on Freeman’s journey. Our eyes are opened to our own questions about God, death, life, love, and purpose.

Preaching While Female

by Lisa Sharon Harper 02-29-2016
Male dominance was never taught outright, but it was observed like a tenet of the faith.
4Max / Shutterstock

4Max / Shutterstock

A MILLION YEARS ago, when I was 23 years old, I sat in a lecture hall, flanked by college students who tutored at the youth program where I worked. They had invited me to their campus ministry’s worship service. An Asian-American woman named Susan Cho—young (about my age), tall, straight-backed, clear-voiced, and refreshingly funny—stepped to the podium and began preaching.

I sat transfixed. She dove into the scripture and it came alive! She explained what was going on in the world of the biblical characters in a way that made it feel as if they were living today. I felt like I knew them—I understood them. And then she brought home the meaning of the text for our lives in Los Angeles, months after the 1992 riots. This woman gave one of the most dynamic and biblically accurate sermons I had ever heard.

But then a familiar thought came into my head: “This is heresy,” it whispered.

You see, in college I was part of an evangelical ministry in which women could lead behind the scenes and share their testimony during worship services, but we could not preach or, for that matter, teach the scripture—especially to men. Ideas of male dominance were never taught outright, but they were observed like tenets of the faith.

There Is No Future Without Repentance

by Lisa Sharon Harper 02-16-2016

Lisa Sharon Harper, Photo by Craig Stewart

It occurred to me: South Africa is no longer under legal apartheid, but apartheid still thrives here — through de facto economic segregation. There are no signs that say “whites only” as they did under apartheid, but there has also been no move by the black government to restore the people to the land that was taken from them.

One question haunted me: How does a white Christian South African live in this apartheid from day to day? 1) One must actively fight injustice, or 2) she must embrace a theology that has nothing to do with it.

Wheaton College and the Future of Evangelicalism

by Lisa Sharon Harper 02-09-2016

Hawkins' act of solidarity with scapegoated people of Islamic faith — wearing a hijab on campus — and her Facebook statement that Christians and Muslims worship the same God struck a nerve within Wheaton College’s white, politically conservative administration. Ultimately, the public act of solidarity challenged the assumption of white, male, Christian supremacy — the assumption that whites, men, and Christians are more human than anyone else.

Four Things Evangelicals Should Know About Black Lives Matter

by Lisa Sharon Harper 01-15-2016

But evangelical leaders are stepping forward. They are voicing support for the structural and systemic protection of the image of God in black people. And as in the days of MLK and Mandela, it is essential that allies understand the movement and its operating principles. 

The Black Lives Matter movement is the most recent phase of the 500-year global struggle for black freedom. It is not random. It is not disorganized. 

Open Letter to the Leadership of #Urbana15 and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

by Lisa Sharon Harper 01-05-2016

Michelle Higgins speaks at Urbana15.

I, along with my colleagues Leroy Barber, Dominique D. Gilliard, Mae Cannon, Micky Jones, Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, and Dr. Brian Bantum, were struck that InterVarsity had made a bold and unique move among modern evangelical non-advocacy-based parachurch organizations. I served on staff with InterVarsity for 10 years from 1995-2005. For five of those years, I served as director of racial reconciliation in Greater Los Angeles. In my last year, I served as racial reconciliation specialist for Southern California. In all those years, most of the organization’s focus was on the reconciliation of cultures within their own communities. In some instances, InterVarsity even dared to address the structural and systemic injustices within its own organization. Occasionally, a campus chapter would respond to a racist incident that occurred on campus. But never before had InterVarsity issued a public statement in support of structural and systemic racial justice in the broader society.

Things Fall Apart

by Lisa Sharon Harper 01-04-2016
But now is the time to dream and plan and begin to build the world we want.
jadimages / Shutterstock

jadimages / Shutterstock

If Facebook feeds are any measure of anxiety levels, then we’re reaching a new high. Friends’ posts share news of overt hatred and violence, the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades:

  • A seemingly unending onslaught of police killings of unarmed black people.
  • White supremacists shooting people as they pray, setting fire to churches, and shooting into crowds of multiethnic protesters.
  • More than 1,000 mass shootings in the U.S. since the 2012 massacre of children at Sandy Hook.
  • Millions of Syrian and African refugees flowing into Europe—the greatest movement of people across Europe since the Holocaust.
  • The so-called Islamic State ushering in what looks to be a new world war.
  • Oh, and the climate is changing at an alarming rate.

It feels like the world is unraveling.

But what if it is? What if we are, in fact, witnessing the end of the world as we know it? Would that be so bad?

Think about it. The world order, as we know it, rests on deep foundations built by worldwide colonization, imperialism, slavery, patriarchy, exploitation, and ecological consumption. Most of the violence listed above traces back to economic and social systems of dominance—one group over another or humanity’s domination of the rest of creation. White supremacists feel threatened because people of color are finally rising up and saying “No more!”

While 16 mass shootings occurred between 1995 and 2005, there were 38 from 2005 to 2015, according to a recent report by Mother Jones. In recent years, people have pushed against the gun lobby with all their might, but the NRA seemed invincible.

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