By Kirk Petersen
As his disputed election as bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Florida makes its way through the canonical appeal process, the Rev. Charlie Holt seeks to assure the diocese that if he eventually is consecrated, his episcopacy will focus on reconciliation.
In a December 20 “Statement on Unity and Communion Across Difference” to the diocese, Holt pledged that “Parishes and Rectors in the Diocese of Florida that choose to offer same-gender marriages will be free to do so in accordance with the parameters of the approved liturgies and canons of the Episcopal Church.” People opposed to Holt’s traditional view that marriage is between a man and a woman have twice filed formal objections to his election.
A church court found process irregularities in Holt’s first election in May, and said the electing convention should have been adjourned without a vote for lack of a quorum. The Court of Review’s opinion is not binding, and could have been disregarded by bishops and standing committees in the consent process. Under the canons, a majority of bishops with jurisdiction and diocesan standing committees must consent to the election of any bishop. Holt chose to withdraw his acceptance of the election, leading to a second vote in November, which he also won. Opponents subsequently filed objections to that election as well, forcing consideration by a second Court of Review.
Under a timeline specified in the canons, the second court has until late January 2023 to issue its opinion, which then must be disseminated by the presiding bishop within 15 days. That touches off a 120 window for gathering consents. In light of this, Bishop of Florida Samuel Johnson Howard has postponed the annual diocesan convention that was scheduled for January 28 to an unspecified date later in the year.
In 2018, the General Convention passed Resolution B012, which provides that bishops opposed to same-sex marriage shall invite another bishop to oversee any such marriages in the diocese. In addition to pledging to abide by “the spirit and intent” of B012, Holt promised that “Any inequality of or discrimination against People of Color (POC), LGBTQ+ persons, or any other group in this diocese will be addressed and corrected.” This specifically includes the right to participate in all of the sacraments, and that “potential ordinands and candidates for employment will be welcomed into discernment and calling processes based on their gifts and call to ministry without discrimination.”
If consecrated as coadjutor, Holt automatically would become bishop diocesan upon the retirement of Howard, who reaches the mandatory retirement age of 72 on September 8, 2023.
In an email to the diocese accompanying his statement, Holt said “I am planning on a long 20+ year ministry of expanding and growing The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Florida as its Bishop, and I aim to be a faithful Bishop within the Episcopal Church.” However, while his tenure as Bishop of Florida could approach 20 years, it cannot exceed it. Holt will turn 52 on May 24, 2023, and he will not yet be Bishop of Florida on that date, given the duration of the appeal and consent processes and Howard’s continuing eligibility.