Dear Friends in Christ:
At our April meeting, the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Ohio made the decision to withhold consent to the election of the Rev. Charlie Holt as Bishop Coadjutor in the Diocese of Florida. In advance of our meeting, the Committee had spent considerable time reading dozens of communications and documents regarding the election, each reflecting various perspectives and opinions. The issues surrounding the election are complex and fraught, but after much discussion and prayer, the Standing Committee was unanimous in its decision not to consent to the election of the Rev. Holt.
There are three primary reasons for our decision:
While we accept the Rev. Holt’s recent expressions of remorse for his hurtful comments, appreciate his stated commitment to full inclusion of all in the church, and are encouraged by his pledge to work for racial reconciliation and justice, we remain concerned that past actions are the best predictor of future actions.
Finally, we reject the Standing Committee of Florida’s comparison of the election of Charlie Holt in Florida to that of Gene Robinson in the Diocese of New Hampshire in 2003 which asserts that diocesan autonomy is the critical factor. The relevant comparison of the elections in New Hampshire and Florida, rather, is about divisiveness vs. openness, exclusion vs. inclusion, indifference vs. love.
One of the roles of diocesan Standing Committees is to consent to the election of all bishops within the Episcopal Church. While this role often feels perfunctory, it is a critical element of our church polity. It is extremely rare for a Standing Committee to choose not to consent to an election.
Following the election of a bishop, the Constitution and Canons requires that all diocesan Standing Committees testify that, “…fully sensible how important it is that the Sacred Order and Office of a Bishop should not be unworthily conferred, and firmly persuaded that it is our duty to bear testimony… we know of no impediment on account of which the [bishop-elect] ought not to be ordained to that Holy Order.” When presented with notice of a successful bishop election and the request for consent, the Standing Committee reviews all documentation regarding the elected candidate and the processes by which they were elected. A decision to consent is made after ensuring that the process was sound, and the bishop-elect meets the canonical requirements of a bishop.
The Book of Common Prayer offers some guidance to understanding the role and requirements of a bishop. The Preface to Ordination Rites states that “…the order of bishops … carry on the apostolic work of leading, supervising, and uniting the church.” In the Catechism, the ministry of a bishop is defined as representing, “…Christ and his Church, particularly as apostle, chief priest, and pastor of a diocese; to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the whole Church; to proclaim the Word of God; to act in Christ’s name for the reconciliation of the world and the building up of the Church; and to ordain others to continue Christ’s ministry."
The Diocese of Florida first elected the Rev. Charlie Holt as Bishop Coadjutor on May 14, 2022. The election was immediately challenged on procedural grounds and the Court of Review concurred with those objections. The Rev. Holt subsequently rescinded his acceptance of the election. A second election was held on November 19 at which the Rev. Charlie Holt was again elected. This second election was also challenged with claims of both procedural irregularities as well as discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community as well as lay supporters of LGBTQ ordination, marriage, and other rights. While some of the points made by the objectors were found not to have merit, the Court did find that multiple lay and clergy members were unfairly denied the right to vote in the election, concluding, “The Court cannot state conclusively whether the addition of these delegates would have changed the outcome of the election; we can state that this disenfranchisement casts a shadow over the election process.” The Court’s review did not require that the election be disqualified.
Under the 19-year leadership of Bishop Howard, the current Bishop Diocesan in the Diocese of Florida, members of the LGBTQ community have been consistently denied a path to ordination or, for the ordained, the right to fully exercise their ministries. Such a pattern of discrimination and disenfranchisement has created an environment hostile to members of the LGBTQ+ community, despite the adoption of various General Convention resolutions and canons that ensure full rights and participation of all members of the church regardless of sexual orientation.
The members of the Standing Committee are open to conversation regarding our decision. Please do not hesitate to contact one of us if you have any questions.
Yours in Christ,
Pamela C. O’Halloran, President
The Rev. Dr. Brian K. Wilbert, Secretary
The Rev. Alexander D. Martin
The Rev. Debra Bennett
Dianne Audrick Smith
The Rev. June Hardy Dorsey
Presiding bishop nominating committee releases churchwide survey, seeks participation by Oct. 31
The Episcopal Church Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop invites all Episcopalians to participate in a survey. The responses will help the committee develop a profile of the skills, qualities, and gifts the church seeks in its next presiding bishop, considering what the church and world may look like in the next decade.
The church’s General Convention will elect the next presiding bishop in the summer of 2024.
The deadline for completing the survey—which can be found online here in English, French, and Spanish—is Oct. 31.
“We want to hear from Episcopalians throughout the church because their input will help guide us in our nominating work,” said committee member Deborah Harmon Hines, who chairs the profile subcommittee. “The survey is designed to help us all discern some of the characteristics we hope to see in the person we will elect as the next presiding bishop.”
The survey—which takes about 15 minutes to complete—asks respondents to define the most important issues facing The Episcopal Church and the world in the next 10 years, as well as the foremost gifts or skills the next presiding bishop will need to lead the church. Participants are also asked to rank in importance areas of experience for the presiding bishop to have.
The survey includes an open section for additional feedback and ends with optional questions requesting information on age, race, gender, role in the church, and years as an Episcopalian.
Episcopal Church canons (1.2.4) define the presiding bishop as the church’s chief pastor and primate, with duties that include the following:
The presiding bishop is also president of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, the name under which the church is incorporated, conducts business, and carries out its mission. As chief executive officer of the Executive Council, the presiding bishop oversees a $100 million-plus budget.
The nominating committee plans to release the profile for the next presiding bishop in the spring of 2023 and expects to open the nomination process in late summer. The committee is charged with presenting at least three nominees to stand for election at the 81st General Convention. View the committee roster.
For more information, contact the committee at email@example.com. Follow the committee on the following social media sites: