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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
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