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Election of a bishop in Florida ruled unfair

26 August 2022

Diocese of Florida

The Revd Charlie Holt in a video message in June

The Revd Charlie Holt in a video message in June

THE Court of Review of the Episcopal Church of the United States has ruled that the election of a bishop in Florida was not conducted properly, the Episcopal News Service reports. The Bishop-elect has withdrawn his acceptance in response.

The Court of Review found that the election of the Revd Charlie Holt as Bishop Coadjutor in the diocese of Florida had not been conducted appropriately. The rules were changed two days before the election in May to allow clergy to participate remotely. Lay delegates were offered no such facility, and had to vote in person.

An objection was filed by several delegates, who argued that diocesan canons did not allow for remote voting, and, therefore, the vote was not quorate.

The court agreed with the objectors. It concluded that “a clergy quorum was not reached” in accordance with the diocese’s official election process, and that the irregularities in the convention process itself “cast a shadow” over the legitimacy of the election.

“The action of the diocese in changing its manner of voting two days prior to the election was fundamentally unfair to the delegates of the convention and the candidates,” the court said.

Fr Holt, who is the assistant rector for teaching and formation at St John the Divine, Houston, said in a letter to the diocese that withdrawing his acceptance of the election was his “moral responsibility”. “The election process must be cured for the good of the diocese of Florida.”

He said that he still hoped he could become the next bishop in due course.

The announcement that he had been elected bishop has also been dogged by criticism sparked by some of his previously expressed views on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ people. In an interview before his election, he said: “Christian marriage is a solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman in the presence of God. That’s my doctrine and teaching of marriage that I have received . . . and that will continue to be my teaching. I see marriage as instituted by God, not a social construct.”

The Pastor of Jacksonville Campus Ministry and an assisting priest at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer on the Southside, the Revd Sarah Locke, wrote on Twitter: “Please keep folks in the LGBTQIA+ community in the Diocese of Florida in your prayers. Today the diocese elected another bishop who will not affirm their full humanity and . . . believes marriage is between a man and woman and there are only two genders. What a really sad day for the Church.”

Fr Holt has issued a video apologising for what he described as his poor word-choices and pledging to support the range of views found within the diocese.

He was one of five candidates considered for the post. He was due to succeed the current diocesan bishop, the Rt Revd John Howard, when he retires in a year’s time.

The Episcopal Church’s public-affairs office issued a short statement after Fr Holt’s announcement: “The Episcopal Diocese of Florida and the Revd Charlie Holt have notified Presiding Bishop Michael Curry that — in light of the report of the Court of Review regarding the recent episcopal election in Florida — Fr Holt has rescinded his acceptance of the election. As a result, the consent process set out in Episcopal Church Canon III.11.3 will not go forward. The Standing Committee of the diocese has indicated that it is considering next steps as it prepares for the resignation of Bishop Diocesan Samuel Johnson Howard at the end of 2023.”

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