[Episcopal News Service] The Diocese of Florida, with less than a month left in the consent process for the ordination of its bishop coadjutor-elect, has persuaded at least one of the church’s 110 standing committees to change its “no” vote to “yes.”
The Diocese of Spokane Standing Committee, after initially opposing the ordination and consecration of the Rev. Charlie Holt as Florida’s next bishop, voted on June 21 to change its position to “yes,” according to information shared this week by a Diocese of Florida spokesman.
The Diocese of Spokane includes the eastern half of Washington and the Idaho Panhandle. Its standing committee voted on the reversal after receiving Holt’s responses to its own series of questions. The reversal comes after the Diocese of Florida appealed to all Episcopal standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction to spend more time considering the request for consents to Holt’s ordination.
The Jacksonville-based Diocese of Florida has until July 20 to persuade a majority of bishops and standing committees to give their consent. Without both majorities, Holt’s November 2022 election to succeed retiring Bishop John Howard will be negated. The current vote tallies are not publicly available, though Florida leaders said last month that they still had work to do.
Holt, formerly a priest in the Diocese of Texas, was first elected in May 2022. After he was declared the winner, some Episcopalians from across the church raised concerns on social media about past statements by Holt that they interpreted as insulting to Black and LGBTQ+ people. Holt apologized for what he described as poor word choices but defended his record as a priest who worked to bridge cultural divides.
The election, however, also faced formal objections over procedural issues, which prompted an investigation by a churchwide Court of Review and ultimately led the standing committee to schedule a second election in November 2022. Holt was again declared the winner, elected on the first ballot.
Clergy and lay delegates in the diocese raised new objections to the second election, including allegations that a pattern of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination during Howard’s two decades as bishop had skewed the pool of vote-eligible delegates, potentially affecting the election outcome. Again, a churchwide Court of Review investigated and, in issuing its findings in February, partly sided with the objectors.
Howard will reach the church’s mandatory retirement age of 72 in September. If Holt fails to receive the necessary consents, the standing committee will become the diocese’s ecclesiastical authority and will continue navigating the diocese through its leadership transition.
Various groups of Episcopalians in the Diocese of Florida have launched efforts to support Holt in the consent process. In May, for example, members of the Latino Hispanic Ministries of the Diocese of Florida released a video appeal to Episcopal bishops and standing committees, asking them to vote yes. Another group, calling itself “Laity for Rev. Charlie Holt” produced a petition with hundreds of signatories urging churchwide leaders to honor the result of the diocese’s election.
This month, the Rev. Justin Yawn, rector of St. Francis in-the-Field Episcopal Church in Ponte Verde, released a personal video to draw attention to a letter signed by hundreds of clergy and lay leaders in the diocese in favor of Holt’s ordination as bishop. “We believe, I believe that with Charlie as our bishop, we can move into a new phase of reconciliation and growth,” Yawn said.
The diocese also released a letter to The Episcopal Church’s nine Black diocesan bishops from Alma Flowers, a lay leader in the local chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians. She said she was writing not as a UBE member but as a Florida Episcopalian.
“My diocese is broken, and we desperately need a leader to unify us and move forward. I personally believe that person to be Rev. Charlie Holt,” Flowers said.
On June 27, the Diocese of Florida Standing Committee released its latest update on the consent process but offered few new details.
“We continue to communicate with other standing committees and bishops, providing more information about our election process and associated events and circumstances as we have opportunity to do so,” the update said. “As the standing committee, we are also working diligently to chart a course that will guide us after the consent process concludes next month.”
– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.