About

Julia Marie-Cecilia Ayala Harris

Updated June 15, 2022

I am a first-generation Mexican American, the daughter of an undocumented immigrant, from a large working-class family in the Chicago area. I came to the Episcopal Church 21 years ago, when I was 20 years old, after a crisis of faith in the Roman Catholic church of my childhood and the evangelical church of my teens. In the Episcopal Church, I have continually found healing, blessing, and wholeness in God’s unconditional love. Throughout my lay ministry, I have worked to bring about a church that can share that blessing with all of God’s people.

Today I live in the Diocese of Oklahoma, where I am a doctoral student at the University of Oklahoma and a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Norman. I study topics related to leadership identity (race, ethnicity, gender, etc.), public opinion of nonprofits and faith-based organizations, as well as congregational collaboration.

For the last two decades, I have worked in the nonprofit sector in multiple states, leading organizations and programs that provide transitional housing for homeless women and children, permanent supportive housing for people with disabilities, community and fine arts, alternatives to incarceration for pregnant women and mothers, and collaborative initiatives to close the digital divide. From 2005 to 2008, I was an international aid worker in Kenya and South Sudan with Church Ecumenical Action in Sudan, building the capacity of South Sudanese faith-based nonprofits and dioceses in grant writing, financial management, as well as program design and evaluation.

From my professional, familial, and personal experiences, I am passionate about a multitude of issues such as immigration, LGBTQIA2S+ inclusion, empowerment of women and girls, criminal justice reform, race and ethnicity, disability inclusion and access, sexual harassment and exploitation, as well as justice and peace initiatives.

My husband, John, is a professor at the University of Oklahoma, where he is director of the Regional and City Planning Division and founding co-director of the OU Center for Peace and Development. We are parents to Izzy, who is in her eighth year serving as an acolyte and a member of the Junior Daughters of the King. Izzy is proud to have been born in Kenya and lived as an infant in South Sudan. We love spending time in nature with our rescue dog, Ani, board games, music, and documentaries, but most of all, Star Trek! During the pandemic, we have become connoisseurs of at-home mystery puzzles boxes.

I have been fortunate to serve our church and my community in many ways in the last two decades. In all of these roles, I have gained experience and skills that have prepared me to serve as president of the House of Deputies in this pivotal time for the Episcopal Church.

Ver abajo la biografía en español.

Episcopal Church Service

The Episcopal Church.

  • Executive Council. 2015-Present.
  • Executive Committee of Executive Council. 2018-Present.
  • Chair of Executive Council Joint Standing Committee on Mission Within The Episcopal Church. 2020-Present.
  • Chair of Legislative Committee #6 on Sexual Harassment, Sexual Exploitation, and Safeguarding. 80th General Convention, 2022.
  • Presiding Officers’ Working Group on Truth-Telling, Reckoning, and Healing, 2021-2022.
  • Gathering of Leaders. Lay Leader Pilot Group – First cohort of lay leaders. October 2022.
  • Vice-Chair of Legislative Committee on Social Justice and United States Policy. 79th General Convention. 2018.
  • Nuevo Amanecer. Conference Presenter 2014, 2020. Attendee 2022.
  • TEConversations Planning Group. 79th General Convention. 2018.
  • Vice-Chair of Executive Council Joint Standing Committee on Advocacy and Networking. 2015-2018.
  • Task Force on Women, Truth and Reconciliation. 2018-2021.
  • Creation Care Grants Panel. 2016-2018.
  • Evangelism Grants Panel. 2018-2020.
  • House of Deputies Special Committee on Sexual Harassment and Exploitation. 2018. Proposed D016.
  • House of Deputies #MeToo Lenten Series Blog.
  • House of Deputies News. “Deputies Respond to #MeToo and the Church” video participant.
  • United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Official Delegate, 2015.
  • Episcopal Migration Ministries. Hometown Podcast. Good Book Club. What are you willing to risk? Episode 11.https://episcopalmigrationministries.org/what-are-you-willing-to-risk
  • Sermons That Work. Office of Government Relations. Requested topic: The U.S. Election and Voting. October 11, 2020 – 19th Sun after Pentecost: Proper 23.
  • AdventWord. 2021. Bless.
  • Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church (TREC). 2013-2015.
  • Example Work on Executive Council:
    • Co-authored The Episcopal Church’s first comprehensive resolution with regard to Domestic Violence, Sexual Violence, Dating Violence and Stalking, which was passed unanimously by Executive Council in February 2016 allowing The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations to lobby for the Sexual Assault Survivor Rights Act.
    • Co-authored resolutions regarding among others: The Episcopal Church’s relationship with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and involvement with the protests at Standing Rock; federal minimum wage increases; support for refugee resettlement agencies; as well as support for Historically Black College and Universities.
    • Collaborated (sometimes authored, sometimes stewarded) resolutions regarding gun safety, racial justice, deradicalization and white supremacy, creation care, disbursement of grants to local ministries on the ground.
    • Created space on Executive Council to hear from voices and perspectives not typically heard from in our church.
  • Churchwide structures (DFMS) search committee service:
    • Director of Operations Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM). 2022. Hire: TBD.
    • Staff Officer for Racial Reconciliation. 2019. Hire: The Rev. Isaiah “Shaneequa” Brokenleg.
    • Executive Council Clergy Vacancy Slate. 2019. Elected: The Rev. Charles Graves IV.
    • Asia Pacific Partnership Officer. 2017. Hire: Bruce Woodcock.
    • Director of Office of Government Relations (OGR). 2016. Hire: Rebecca Blachly.
    • Refugee and Immigration Policy Advisor. 2016. Hire: Lacy Broemel.
    • Africa Partnership Officer. 2020. Hiring freeze due to COVID.

Anglican Communion. United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Official Delegate 2016.

World Council of Churches. Official Delegate to 11th Assembly. Karlsruhe, Germany. 2022.

Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma.

  • Becoming Beloved Community Commission. 2020-2021.
  • Hispanic Heritage month Podcast. Episode 35.
  • Bishop’s Nomination Committee. 2019.
  • Deputy to General Convention. 2018, 2022.
  • Young Adult Festival to General Convention. 2015
  • Episcopal Church Women. Board of Directors. 2014-2019.

St. John’s Episcopal Church – Norman. Diocese of Oklahoma.

  • Youth Minister. 2018-2020.
  • Norman Pride Festival and Parade Co-Organizer. 2018, 2019.
  • Journey to Adulthood Leader (J2A) 2017-2018.
  • Property Development Committee. 2015-2020.   
  • Vestry. 2015-2018.
  • Episcopal Church Women. 2013-2016.

Advent Episcopal Church – Tallahassee. Diocese of Florida.

  • Sunday School Teacher. Elementary school. 2010-2011.

St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church – Deerfield. Diocese of Chicago.

  • Youth Minister. 2003-2005.
  • Sunday School Teacher. High school. 2003-2005.

Other Community Involvement

  • Graduate Association of Political Science. Vice President. 2021-Present
  • Norman Public Schools. Baby Steps Graduation. Commencement Speaker. 2022.
  • Oklahoma Arts Council. Major Grant Support Reviewer. 2018, 2019.
  • Mid-America Arts Alliance. Artistic Innovations Grant Reviewer. 2019.
  • Palomar, Oklahoma City Family Justice Center. Steering Committee. 2016-2017.
  • Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma. Troop Leader. 2013-2018.
  • Women’s Resource Center – Norman, OK. Board of Directors. 2015.
  • 21 Century Council, Tallahassee, FL. Vice President. 2012-2013.
  • Mennonite Central Committee. Capacity Building Advisor. South Sudan (formerly southern Sudan). 2005-2008.
  • AmeriCorps. VISTA Volunteer. Habitat for Humanity of Colquitt County, Moultrie, GA. 2001-2002.
  • The Cradle. Evanston, IL. Birth Parent Advisory Board and adoption education volunteer. 1996-2001, 2003-2005.

Education

  • Doctoral Student – Political Science. University of Oklahoma. Norman, OK. Fall 2020 – Present.
  • Master of Public Administration – Political Science. University of Oklahoma. Norman, OK. 2020.  
  • Bachelor of Arts – Nonprofit Management and Social Sciences. Trinity International University. Deerfield, IL. 2005.
  • Sociology and Philosophy. Wheaton College. Wheaton, IL. 1998-2001.
  • Certification: Conscious Language. Inclusive Language for Leaders. 2022
  • Certified: Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation. International Institute of Rural Reconstruction. Kampala, Uganda Cohort. 2006.

Awards

  • University of Oklahoma, Department of Political Science. John Halvor Leek Memorial Scholarship. 2021-2022
  • Gamma Beta Phi. Honor Society for those who also devote significant time to community service. 2021
  • Phi Kappa Phi. Honor Society for those who rank within top 10 percent of graduating class. 2020
  • Pi Alpha Alpha. Global Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration. 2020
  • University of Oklahoma, College of Arts & Sciences. David C. Steer Arts & Sciences Scholarship. 2019-2020
  • University of Oklahoma, College of Arts & Sciences. Outstanding Academic Performance & Leadership. 2019-2020
  • Pi Sigma Alpha. National Political Science Honor Society. 2019
  • University of Oklahoma, College of Arts & Sciences. Robert E. and Mary B. Sturgis Scholarship. 2018-2019
  • Zonta Club of Central Oklahoma. Educational Memoriam Award Recipient. 2017

Julia Marie-Cecilia Ayala Harris

Soy mexicana americana de primera generación, hija de un inmigrante indocumentado, de una familia numerosa de clase trabajadora del área de Chicago. Llegué a la Iglesia Episcopal hace 21 años, cuando tenía 20, después de una crisis de fe en la iglesia católica romana de mi infancia y la iglesia evangélica de mi adolescencia. En la Iglesia Episcopal he encontrado continuamente sanación, bendición y plenitud en el amor incondicional de Dios. A lo largo de mi ministerio laico, he trabajado para conseguir una iglesia que pueda compartir esa bendición con todo el pueblo de Dios.

Hoy vivo en la Diócesis de Oklahoma, donde soy estudiante de doctorado en la Universidad de Oklahoma y miembro de la Iglesia Episcopal de San Juan en Norman. Estudio temas relacionados con la identidad del liderazgo (raza, etnia, género, etc.), la opinión pública de las organizaciones sin ánimo de lucro y las organizaciones religiosas, así como la colaboración entre congregaciones.

Durante las dos últimas décadas, he trabajado en el sector de las organizaciones sin ánimo de lucro en varios estados, dirigiendo organizaciones y programas que proporcionan viviendas de transición para mujeres y niños sin hogar, viviendas de apoyo permanente para personas con discapacidad, artes comunitarias y bellas artes, alternativas al encarcelamiento para mujeres embarazadas y madres, e iniciativas de colaboración para cerrar la brecha digital. De 2005 a 2008, trabajé como cooperante internacional en Kenia y Sudán del Sur con la Acción Ecuménica de la Iglesia en Sudán, desarrollando la capacidad de las organizaciones religiosas sin ánimo de lucro y las diócesis de Sudán del Sur en la redacción de subvenciones, la gestión financiera y el diseño y la evaluación de programas.

A partir de mis experiencias profesionales, familiares y personales, me apasionan multitud de temas como la inmigración, la inclusión del colectivo LGBTQIA2S+, el empoderamiento de las mujeres y las niñas, la reforma de la justicia penal, la raza y la etnia, la inclusión y el acceso de los discapacitados, el acoso y la explotación sexual, así como las iniciativas de justicia y paz.

Mi esposo, John, es profesor en la Universidad de Oklahoma, donde es director de la División de Planificación Regional y Urbana y codirector fundador del Centro para la Paz y el Desarrollo de la OU. Somos padres de Izzy, que está en su octavo año de servicio como acólito y miembro de Junior Daughters of the King menores. Izzy está orgullosa de haber nacido en Kenia y de haber vivido de pequeña en Sudán del Sur. Nos encanta pasar tiempo en la naturaleza con nuestro perro de rescate, Ani, los juegos de mesa, la música y los documentales, pero sobre todo, ¡Star Trek! Durante la pandemia, nos hemos convertido en conocedores de las cajas de rompecabezas misteriosos en casa.

He tenido la suerte de servir a nuestra iglesia y a mi comunidad de muchas maneras en las últimas dos décadas. En todas estas funciones, he adquirido experiencia y habilidades que me han preparado para servir como presidente de la Cámara de Diputados en este momento crucial para la Iglesia Episcopal.