A Pastoral Statement on the Bishop Election Process in the Diocese of Florida

Union of Black Episcopalians
Posted Apr 20, 2023

“I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea, ‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help, but give me relief!’ You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!’” (Lamentations 3:55-57)

April 17, 2023

For 55 years, the Union of Black Episcopalians has fought valiantly to rid our beloved Church of racism and other “isms” that prevent us from realizing God’s Beloved Community. As an organization dedicated to seeing racial and ethnic diversity at every level of Episcopal Church life, UBE has and continues to focus on transforming the institution, systems, policies, and decision-making processes that form and shape how the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement functions.

The Board of Directors of UBE has heard the cries emanating from the Diocese of Florida. We feel the agony of those who are distressed over a bishop election process that began, according to a churchwide Court of Review, marred by multiple deficiencies and irregularities, and ended with the re-election of a bishop-elect, the Rev. Charlie Holt, whose election some fear signals a perpetuation of the Diocese’s purported pattern of disregarding and undervaluing the ministry of clergy who are LGBTQIA+ and/or who belong to certain racial and ethnic groups.

The fear and pain of those who are raising objections are real. Those to whom we have listened feel stifled by the retribution that may await them should they dare to share their conviction that Christ’s love is for all. Such pain and fear cannot be ignored by Episcopalians who begin our life in Christ by vowing to strive for justice and peace among all people.

UBE joins with Episcopalians across The Episcopal Church in grieving the existence of racist and oppressive systems fashioned upon white supremacist ideology that continue to plague God’s Church. With growing frequency, The Episcopal Church, and members thereof, are publicly acknowledging our guilt in clinging to vestiges of the “ism” sins that so easily beset us. What sets us Episcopalians apart are the ethical standards of conduct we vow to follow at our baptism, in our Canons, and, for the ordained, through the vows and responsibilities clergy embrace upon ordination. These standards require that Episcopalians go beyond words alone by giving due attention to ensuring that we practice what we preach.

We receive with enthusiasm and hope-filled expectation the public commitment Bishop-elect Charlie Holt has made, as reported by Episcopal News Service and the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Florida, to spend his first years as bishop engaged in ‘“careful mediated listening across the diocese with all members – especially members of the Union of Black Episcopalians…”’ We only regret not having heard from the Bishop-elect and/or Diocese sooner, or since that March 22nd news article.

As the Church’s Sacred Ground and Internalized Oppression curricula teach us, anti-racism is a lifelong journey of transformation that includes telling the truth, proclaiming the dream of creating God’s Beloved Community, repairing the breach that the sin of racism has caused, and practicing Jesus’ way of love. It is not about merely adding another black or ethnic individual or group to one’s cadre of associates. Anti-racism is persistently putting the love of Jesus, and of our God who shows no partiality, into action, something to which we all are called.

The Union of Black Episcopalians lives in the hope that all Bishops of The Episcopal Church will strive to dismantle the oppressive systems of segregation and dehumanization that have hurt the people of God by exclusion in our Church. We appeal to all Episcopalians, especially the people of the Diocese of Florida, to embrace our baptismal vows to “seek and serve Christ in all persons”, “to strive for justice and peace among all people,” and “to respect the dignity of every human being.” Together we must find a way to love and include ALL clergy and laity, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, and/or ethnicity, in the exercise of God’s ministry in Christ Jesus at every level in our beloved Episcopal Church.

UBE welcomes the opportunity to work with all Dioceses and people in The Episcopal Church to help eradicate racism and oppression in our church and in our communities. We pray that all Standing Committees and Bishops under the guidance of the Holy Spirit will make decisions that reflect who God is calling us to be as we strive to realize here on earth the Beloved Community that the Apostle John envisions in Revelation 7:9, a community where all nations, all peoples, all languages and all tribes have seat, voice, and, if ever necessary, vote in God’s everlasting kingdom.

National Board of Directors
Union of Black Episcopalians
The Rev. Kim L. Coleman, National President