By Douglas LeBlanc
In finding its three nominees to become the fifth bishop of Central Florida, the search committee presented potential nominees with seven questions ranging from theology to evangelism and from COVID restrictions to cultural diversity.
The last two questions, unlike the previous five, called for no discussion but simply a yes or no. They captured the theological divide the diocese navigates on the question of gay marriage: a diocesan canon forbids clergy from celebrating such weddings, but General Convention’s Resolution B012 (2018) requires a bishop to make provisions for them. All three nominees said they would obey both standards.
The nominees are:
- The Rev. Charles (Roy) Allison II, rector of St. James Church, Ormond Beach;
- The Rev. Canon Dr. Justin Holcomb, canon for vocations in the Diocese of Central Florida; and
- The Rev. Dr. Stacey Timothy Tafoya, rector of Church of the Epiphany, Denver
Allison, a 2012 graduate of Nashotah House Theological Seminary, is a U.S. Air Force veteran and a graduate of the U.S. Army Intelligence School at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. He is a member of the Order of St. Luke and the Brotherhood of St. Andrew.
Holcomb, a 1997 graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary, has a Ph.D. from Emory University in theological studies. He is the author of several books, including Is it My Fault?: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence (with his wife, Lindsey), Know the Creeds and Councils, and On the Grace of God. He serves on the Living Church Foundation.
Tafoya, a 2000 graduate of Seminary of the Southwest, completed a D.Min. at Denver Seminary in 2020. “A Benedictine spirituality is at the heart of my approach to life and ministry,” he writes.
The first question starts on a theological note by mentioning a bishop’s pledge “to be one with the apostles in proclaiming Christ’s resurrection and interpreting the Gospel, and to testify to Christ’s sovereignty as Lord of lords and King of kings.” The question added: “What do you understand those words to mean, and are there any you hesitate to endorse? If so, please explain.”
All three bishop candidates affirmed their belief in Christ’s resurrection and expressed no hesitations about the pledge.
The three nominees spoke most from personal experience in answering the second question, about how they have described the gospel to a non-believer. Each devoted a page or more to answering the question in detail.
Allison wrote about encountering a young man at a funeral who said he was not a Christian because, from experiences in his childhood, he had concluded the church was full of hypocrites.
“I told him that Christianity is actually not about religion as much as it is about relationship. I shared how at times I had hurt those closest to me, even doubled down on not being wrong, and found myself feeling right, but also being alone. Alone, I said, is not something I enjoy or desire,” Allison wrote.
“I shared that hurt feelings over broken relationships don’t just go away, and that they don’t have to stay that way either. I told him how the story of the prodigal son really helped me to understand what Christ was really hoping for us. I shared that when we have failed ourselves, and the world has failed us, that the Father runs to us with open arms to receive those who come back to him; no concern of the things of the past, only a renewed relationship, love, and hope for our future together.”
Holcomb wrote about sharing the gospel with a victim of domestic abuse, a pastoral issue in which he and his wife have been involved for many years.
“Jesus Christ is why hope and healing are possible. In and through him, God is rescuing us from judgment for sin, healing us from the shame of sins done against us, bringing us into fellowship with him, adopting us into his family, and restoring creation so that we can enjoy our new life together now and with God forever. Not a single doubt, temptation, transgression, defilement, depression, sorrow, or infirmity will come with us into the everlasting kingdom,” Holcomb wrote in a one-page summary of his message.
He added: “With tears of grief and hope in her eyes, she said she wanted to explore God’s good news more. I introduced her to the pastor of the church. Months later, I received a picture of her being baptized by the pastor at that same church.”
Tafoya described discussing the gospel with Muslims in markets and cafes near Church of the Epiphany, with an atheist he met through his wife’s music classes, with a neighbor who was an agnostic and converted, and with a trainer at his gym who also converted.
“As a part of preparation for baptism, I was clear to articulate the baptismal pattern of renouncing Satan, the evil of the world, and the things that draw us from God within our own hearts, the then turning to Jesus Christ as Lord and savior,” Tafoya wrote. “In sum, for me, the most effective evangelism has come after a long time of conversation and friendship.”
An electing convention is scheduled for January 14, 2023. The winner will become the fifth Bishop of Central Florida on June 10, succeeding the Rt. Rev. Greg Brewer, who has served since 2012.