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

When the Good News of the Gospel Doesn't Feel Good Enough

by Lisa Sharon Harper 05-11-2016
My Search for a 'Very Good Gospel'

Image via /Shutterstock.com

If I were to share my understanding of the gospel to my ancestors who walked the Cherokee Trail of Tears (according to family oral tradition) and slaved in South Carolina and Virginia (according to Census Slave Schedules), would they receive my simple understanding of Jesus’ “good news” as good news? Would they jump for joy to find out “God has a wonderful plan for their lives, but they are sinful and therefore separated from God, but Jesus died for their sin, so if they pray a simple prayer they get to go to heaven?”

If this news would not lead my oppressed ancestors to shout with joy, then maybe it’s not good news at all — or at least it’s not good enough.

The Samaritan Woman And Me

by Lisa Sharon Harper 05-03-2016
Two stories of transformation by God's love and power.
Siarhei Tolak / Shutterstock

Siarhei Tolak / Shutterstock

JESUS REMINDS the Samaritan woman at the well that she was created for living water—she, the rejected one, was created for water that brings God’s healing, God’s acceptance, God’s wholeness. She was created for God’s peace between ethnic groups. She was created for God’s peace between genders. She was not created for the wilderness. She was created for places where living water springs from the earth and waters everything and everyone in its path. This hardened woman was created to be loved, and to love.

Humanity’s broken relationship with God is the ultimate cause of all other brokenness. It all stands as evidence of the initial break. In another sense, there is no way humanity could violate relationship with any other created being and not violate its relationship with God. All of creation is bound together by one thing: relationship with our Creator. It is Creator God’s love that binds us all together: To break one tie is to break them all.

And it all unraveled, from verse to verse and chapter to chapter. But that was not the end of the story; it was only the beginning. The first humans were tempted to grasp for their own way to peace in the garden, but their futile reach left them emptier than when they began. They reached for peace and received what Jesus called “well water.”

Like the ultimate Harriet Tubman committed to calling humanity to come home—to find the love it was created for—Jesus sits at the well and says to the nameless enemy, “Give me a drink.” And he doesn’t only speak to her heart. He also speaks to her mind. She has real concerns about the rightful place of worship, concerns hewn out of centuries of ethnic strife. Jesus engages her questions.

Following Jesus by Staying Put

by Lisa Sharon Harper 05-02-2016
At the Tent of Nations, Palestinians are resisting removal by living 100 percent off the grid.

Lisa Sharon Harper

THE ROAD WAS bumpy—full of deep holes and harrowing possibilities for slippage down a roadside slope. My heart raced as I considered the possible headline back home: Bus tumbles down Israeli slope—50 Americans killed by Palestinians. Yes, that would likely be the headline, but it wouldn’t tell the story.

As our bus rolled through this stretch southwest of Bethlehem, my heart raced as Amal Nassar explained that the area had been declared property of the Israeli state decades ago. Since then, Israel built smooth roads, but we weren’t allowed on them. To the right of our bouncing bus was an adjacent highway reserved for Israelis—Palestinians are restricted from driving on these Israeli highways, relegated to the old dirt roads.

Our bus wound around sharp corners, up a hill until it came to a stop. There didn’t seem to be any building structures in sight so I wondered why we’d stopped. Nassar explained that the Israeli government had set large boulders in the middle of the road to block traffic from reaching her family’s farm, so we would have to hike the rest of the way.

We stepped off the bus and onto a dirt road strewn with rocks and trash—old tires, plastic bags, plastic bottles. When the Israeli government claimed the land, it ceased basic services such as trash pick-up, electricity, and running water to Palestinians in the area. It was an effort to make life so difficult that the Palestinians would choose to leave—in modern human rights terms, the world calls this ethnic cleansing. Nassar explained that many families have chosen to leave. Once they are gone for three years, the Israeli government claims that their property has been abandoned and that the state then has legal grounds to claim the power of eminent domain over the land.

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.

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