By Kirk Petersen
After a first attempt was derailed because of voting irregularities, the Diocese of Florida has scheduled a new election for a bishop coadjutor, to be held Saturday, November 19. The winner would succeed the Rt. Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard as Bishop of Florida when Howard retires, which will be not later than September 2023.
The results of the previous May election were challenged by a group of delegates objecting to last-minute changes that allowed clergy to vote online from elsewhere, despite a previous announcement that only persons physically present could vote. The objectors contended that because fewer than two-thirds of eligible clergy were present, the electing convention should have been adjourned without a vote for lack of a quorum.
A church Court of Review agreed in August, declaring “Any action taken that day in the clear absence of a clergy quorum is null and void.” The court has no enforcement power, but the apparent victor, the Rev. Charlie Holt, withdrew his acceptance of the May election results, thereby avoiding the delay of a 120-day consent process.
Three of the five candidates from May will face the voters again. Alphabetically, they are:
- Holt, who led in both the clergy and lay orders on each of the three ballots conducted, and who since has been hired by the diocese in a priestly capacity;
- The Rev. Miguel Rosada, canon for Hispanic ministries for the Diocese of Florida and rector of a Jacksonville church, who finished a distant fourth on each of the ballots in May; and
- The Rev. Beth Tjoflat, canon for urban ministry for the Diocese of Florida, and vicar of a Jacksonville church, who finished second on each ballot in May.
The Rev. Wiley Ammons, a regional canon and rector of a Jacksonville church, elected not to run again after a third-place finish on the May ballots. The Rev. Fletcher Montgomery, regional canon and rector of a church in Gainesville, Florida, finished fifth on the first two ballots in May and withdrew before the third ballot. Additional candidates may file by petition from September 20 to October 3.
Holt opposes same-sex marriage, and that has fueled an organized effort to block his consecration. He has pledged that if elected, he will abide by 2018 General Convention decision that same-sex marriage rites must be made available in every diocese where the practice is legally permitted.
In announcing the new election, the Standing Committee of the diocese emphasized that both clergy and laity must be present to vote on November 19, at the Camp Weed and Cerveny Conference Center in Live Oak, Florida.
“We remind every canonically resident member of the clergy, whether active or retired, that you have a canonical obligation to attend every called diocesan convention (Diocesan Canon 2, Section 1), and an obligation of your ordination vows to take your share in the councils of the church (BCP p.531). We remind every lay delegate that you have a sacred charge to represent your parish to the diocese by your vote. These are holy obligations,” the Standing Committee wrote.
The committee promised that a subsequent message will answer “many of the questions and rumors swirling around this situation,” and that all information will be posted on the electing convention web page.