Harris was born in Winona, Minnesota. After studying at Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, he joined the China Inland Mission in 1916 and was stationed in the northwestern and largely Muslim province of Xining. In 1917 Samuel Zwemer visited China, encouraging mission work among Chinese Muslims. As a result of Zwemer’s visit, Harris became one of the few China missionaries to develop interest in Islam and in the evangelization of Muslims.
Between 1925 and 1946 he contributed several articles to the Moslem World. In 1927 he cofounded the Society of Friends of Moslems in China. In 1946, he wrote How to Lead Moslems to Christ, with a foreword by Zwemer. Intended as a manual for China missionaries, this book drew on the conciliatory approach of Lewis Bevan Jones. One of Harris’s major concerns was the production of literature appropriate for China. Rejecting controversy, he aimed to communicate the gospel so that it could take root in the cultural milieu of Chinese Islam. In one Moslem World article, he wrote about secret Christians in Tibet who were “outwardly still Mohammedans.” He also translated works by Lilias Trotter into Chinese.
This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.
Articles by Harris in Moslem World include: “On the Borders of Tibet,” 15, no. 2 (April 1925), “Literature for Chinese Moslems,” 17, no. 2 (April 1927), “The Rebellion in Kansu,” 19, no. 3 (July 1929), “The Moslem Mind and the Gospel in China,” 19, no. 4 (October 1929), “El Azhar Through Chinese Spectacles,” 24, no.2 (April 1934), “The Moslems of China Today” 25, no. 4 (October 1935), and “Northwest China: A Challenge for Today,” 36, no. 3 (July 1946).