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Retired US bishop to face disciplinary hearings

21 June 2024

Allegations of discrimination and financial impropriety have been raised

Diocese of Florida

Bishop Howard

Bishop Howard

THE former Bishop of Florida in the US Episcopal Church, the Rt Revd John Howard, is to face disciplinary hearings over allegations of discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and financial impropriety.

The allegations against Bishop Howard, who stepped down last year when he reached the compulsory retirement age of 72, were first lodged last summer.

A new webpage (News, 8 March), which outlines complaints against Bishops — known as Title IV cases — shows that the allegations were referred to investigation last November. An update on 7 June referred these to a hearing panel. No further details, nor the hearing date, is given.

Bishop Howard has denied any discrimination — an allegation which emerged during the process of attempting to appoint his successor, the Revd Charlie Holt.

Bishop Holt was twice elected by the diocese of Florida to succeed Bishop Howard, but a churchwide majority of standing committees and bishops refused to give their consent to his election, thereby blocking it.

Clergy and lay delegates had raised objections to Bishop Holt during the election process, alleging that a pattern of LGBTQ+ discrimination in the diocese had skewed the pool of those eligible to vote, thereby affecting the outcome of the election.

A retired bishop, the Rt Revd Mary Grey-Reeves, was brought in as part of a reconciliation process after years of disputes. She said in February that the tortuous election process had resulted in the diocese’s becoming a “psychologically unsafe environment” (News, 9 February).

No detail about the alleged financial impropriety has been given.

Two separate hearing panels, made up of members of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, will receive the cases against Bishop Howard.

The diocese of Florida’s Standing Committee released a statement saying that it had no further information on the case, but which asked for prayers for Bishop Howard and all those involved.

“As the Title IV process is designed, we pray for ‘healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, justice, amendment of life and reconciliation,” it said.

The website detailing Title IV complaints shows nine current complaints against seven bishops, although one of these, against the former Bishop of Wyoming, Paul-Gordon Chandler, was resolved in March, when he voluntarily agreed to a sentence of deposition, meaning that he was stripped of his Holy Orders (News, 5 April).

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