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Florida urges Episcopal Church to recognise Holt as Bishop Coadjutor, despite objections

31 March 2023

DIOCESE OF FLORIDA

The Revd Charlie Holt

The Revd Charlie Holt

THE diocese of Florida has called for the US Episcopal Church to consent to its nomination of the Revd Charlie Holt as Bishop Coadjutor, despite objections and claims of discrimination against LGBTQ+ clergy by the diocese (News, 3 March).

The standing committee has pushed ahead with the next step: church-wide consent to the election result held last November. The standing committee has urged the Church to “extend the same generosity” that it showed in its support for the 2003 election of Bishop Gene Robinson — at the time the only openly gay Episcopal bishop.

The committee published documents, including the diocese’s 12-page response to a ruling from the Church’s Court of Review last month, which cast doubt on the integrity of the election of Mr Holt, owing to reports of discrimination against LGBTQ+ clergy, which prevented them from canonical residency in the diocese, and therefore a vote in the election.

A letter to congregations in the diocese from the standing committee said: “We live in a world that is addicted to indignation, fuelled by consumption of the algorithmic curation of social and political media. As sisters and brothers bound together in Jesus Christ, we must recognize and move away from this impulse to indignation. Our publication of these documents will no doubt tempt some to rush to judgment and to Facebook. We implore you to resist that urge.”

The diocese of Florida, and its serving diocesan bishop, the Rt Revd John Howard — who is due to retire this year — is known for its conservative views on sexuality. But the standing committee insists that the individuals highlighted by the Court of Review were not entitled to canonical residency not because of theological differences, but because “they moved to the diocese without cure or because they are part-time assistant clergy”.

The committee urges fellow dioceses to support the election of Mr Holt, saying: “Your consent will hold the diocese of Florida together, and will allow an intentional program of reconciliation to begin here in earnest.”

Last month, more than 100 LGBTQ+ Christians and steering groups of ethnic caucuses in the Episcopal Church urged diocesan bishops and standing committees to block Mr Holt’s election. And, last week, TransEpiscopal, a group that advocates for inclusive church policies for trans people, also urged the Church to withhold consent.

“The issue is not whether a diocese can elect the bishop who best fits their charism . . . but whether the process of that election fundamentally extends a pattern and practice of discrimination that we have agreed, in our polity, not to uphold,” TransEpiscopal said.

The election in November was the second attempt to elect Mr Holt (News, 25 November 2022), after an earlier vote in May last year, which he won, was disputed after some delegates objected to the way the election was conducted, with some allowed to vote online.

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