Editor’s note: This story was updated later Aug. 14 to include changes St. Mark’s made to its website to identify the Rev. Charlie Holt as its new rector while linking to an announcement from the vestry.
[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Charlie Holt is now serving as rector at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Jacksonville, Florida, according to an announcement by Holt on his personal Facebook page on Aug. 11, three weeks after the Diocese of Florida had announced Holt’s consecration as bishop coadjutor did not receive the necessary churchwide consents to proceed.
Last year, Holt was declared the winner of two successive bishop elections in the Diocese of Florida. He withdrew his acceptance of the first result after an inquiry into formal objections found procedural problems with the diocese’s election. His second election, in November 2022, also generated objections from some clergy and lay leaders in the diocese and across the church, including allegations that a pattern of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination toward clergy by retiring Bishop John Howard had skewed the results. On July 21, the diocese announced that churchwide majorities of bishops and standing committees had withheld their consents to Holt’s ordination as an Episcopal bishop.
Holt previously served as associate rector of teaching and formation at the Church of St. John the Divine in Houston, Texas. The Diocese of Florida had hired him last year as a diocesan staff member while the first of its two bishop elections was under review. He is originally from the Jacksonville area, and after his election was nullified, he said he and his wife intended to remain in the diocese.
In his update on Facebook, he said he had been called as rector at St. Mark’s, preaching for the first time there on Aug. 13.
“The journey to get here has been long, and not without its challenges, but we are thrilled and delighted to report that we have reached a beautiful destination and a bright new beginning,” Holt said. He described the congregation as “such an amazing group of Christian people who are eager to go deeper in faith and witness to God.”
After Episcopal News Service messaged St. Mark’s leaders seeking comment and then published this story in the afternoon Aug. 14, St. Mark’s updated its website to list Holt as its rector. It also linked to a separate announcement, an Aug. 10 email message from the vestry to the parish about Holt.
“Throughout his career, Father Charlie led strategic growth and member engagement efforts for his congregations,” the vestry said. “These efforts included launching a small group ministry that resulted in a 50% increase in average Sunday attendance, developing creative ministry programs for young children and families, establishing multiple plant churches, and coordinating dozens of city-wide outreach and international missionary programs.” The vestry added that it “led the discernment process over the past several months with care, commitment and the support of Bishop Howard” before calling Holt as rector.
The congregation also livestreamed the 10 a.m. Aug. 13 service that featured Holt as preacher.
“‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ It’s the question that’s ringing in the Gospel passage today,” Holt said in his sermon on Matthew 14:22-33, the story of Jesus walking on the water. “The Lord sometimes sends us through very challenging situations and difficulties.”
Holt briefly mentioned his own call as rector in his sermon, in which he spoke of embarking on “this new relationship as a rector and a congregation.” He also appeared at some points to allude to last year’s bishop election and the consent process that ended in no bishop consecration.
“Personally, we’ve been through a lot over this last year, turbulent waves and wind,” Holt said. “We don’t always know the answers to why the Lord makes us do these things, but we trust in the sovereignty of God and in the lordship of Jesus Christ and his command to be those who walk with him in faith.”
Howard, Florida’s sitting bishop, will reach the mandatory retirement age of 72 on Sept. 8. Episcopal Church canons allow bishops to serve up to three months more based on an effective retirement date accepted and announced by the presiding bishop. Florida’s next diocesan convention is scheduled for Sept. 30, and it wasn’t immediately clear whether Howard would be expected to step down before that convention.
Because no successor has been elected and consecrated, the Florida Standing Committee will become the diocese’s ecclesiastical authority after Howard retires. The standing committee has said it will invite outside bishops to assist with confirmations, ordinations and other pastoral roles after Howard retires. Longer-term options are under consideration and include seeking an assisting bishop, launching a new search for a diocesan bishop or electing a bishop provisional to serve for a limited time as a transitional leader.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said last month that he would be “in consultation with leaders in the Diocese of Florida, and with others around The Episcopal Church, as we look for the best next steps.”
– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at email@example.com.