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Second election for bishop coadjutor in Florida to go ahead, despite trust issues

28 October 2022

ENS/diocese of Florida

The diocese of Florida holds a special electing convention in May

The diocese of Florida holds a special electing convention in May

A SECOND attempt to elect a new bishop in Florida will go ahead, the diocese has said, despite calls for it to be postponed owing to an alleged breakdown in trust (News, 23 September).

In a statement given to the Episcopal News Service, the diocesan standing committee reaffirmed its plan to go ahead with the vote on 19 November.

It also issued a video with further details on what it said would be a “clean and valid election”.

This is the second attempt by the diocese to elect a bishop coadjutor, after the first vote was ruled unfair by the Court of Review of the Episcopal Church in the United States. The Revd Charlie Holt had been declared the winner of the original vote in May this year.

A complaint was filed after that result, which was upheld by the Court of Review in the summer. It concluded that a clergy quorum had not been reached, and that the switch to allow online voting by clergy only, just two days before the election, was “fundamentally unfair to the delegates of the convention and its candidates”.

Fr Holt withdrew his acceptance of the result (News, 26 August), and the present Bishop, the Rt Revd Samuel Johnson Howard, announced that the diocese would hold a second election, in person, for Bishop Coadjutor. Bishop Howard plans to retire next autumn, when it is planned the Bishop Coadjutor would succeed him.

But, in a letter to Bishop Howard and the standing committee, 18 clergy, 13 lay delegates, and dozens of parishioners urged that the election be postponed.

Their letter alleges that “trust has eroded in the diocese”, and “long-scheduled opportunities for dialogue and communion among diocesan clergy and laity have been shut down the by the diocesan leadership.”

As well as referring to the issue of trust, the letter sets out several procedural concerns, including whether the three candidates for election are “being fairly and impartially represented by the diocesan office”. It questions the number of “canonically resident clergy” eligible to vote for the bishop.

It continues: “We believe that this election is being rushed forward without systematically and thoroughly addressing some key issues that have become evident in the Diocese of Florida. We are concerned that this election will not be valid canonically, nor are the candidates being fairly and impartially presented by the diocesan office. It is out of love and concern for the Diocese of Florida, for its unit and its mission, that we write this letter asking for postponement of the scheduled election on Nov 19 2022.”

Mr Holt and two of the other candidates from the May election, the Revd Miguel Rosada, and the Revd Beth Tjoflat are on the ballot for the November election.

Neither the video or the written statement addresses concerns raised in the letter directly. But the standing committee’s statement said: “We reviewed the contents of the letter with our chancellor, continue to receive guidance from national church consultants and are very carefully planning this election in accordance with our Canons.

“If there are procedural clarifications or updates needed, we will promptly share them with the diocese. Our goal is continued transparency throughout the election process.”

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