Diocese of Florida bishop says diocese will hold new coadjutor election

By Egan Millard
Posted Aug 26, 2022

[Episcopal News Service] Diocese of Florida Bishop Samuel Howard said Aug. 26 that the diocese will hold a second bishop coadjutor election. The announcement came one week after bishop coadjutor-elect the Rev. Charlie Holt withdrew his acceptance.

Both announcements followed a churchwide Court of Review’s finding that the May 14 election in which Holt was declared winner was conducted improperly.

In the video announcement, Howard did not give details about when the election would be, how it would be conducted or who the candidates would be, but he did suggest that Holt, who is now serving as a priest in the diocese, would be among them, despite his withdrawal of acceptance.

“He is doing what he believes is best, and I’m told that he continues to feel called to be our bishop, and given the opportunity, he would stand for election at another electing convention of our diocese,” Howard said.

The bishop acknowledged the anxiety and disappointment that many in the diocese felt about the process but said that a new election would be a chance to heal divisions and establish clarity.

“It is Christ who gives the gift that some are called to be teaching shepherds and successors to the apostles. It is Christ who creates that gift, not us,” Howard said. “Even our divisions, our quarrels, our unfaithfulness cannot keep Christ from giving us that gift. He may not do it in the way that we expect or the way that we think.”

Holt’s election first came under fire from those who have criticized his statements on race and gender. It then faced a formal objection from some delegates who alleged that the diocese had not reached the required quorum of clergy necessary to hold the election. The rules were changed two days before the election to allow clergy to participate remotely but not lay delegates, and the objectors alleged that those who voted remotely did not count toward a quorum. The diocese maintained it was the only safe and reasonable way to reach a quorum, given the large number of retired elderly clergy who could not be present at the election in Jacksonville.

Holt was elected on the third ballot with 64 clergy and 80 lay votes. The runner-up, the Rev. Beth Tjoflat of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Jacksonville, received 52 clergy and 42 lay votes.

The formal objection triggered the Court of Review’s examination. Though the court’s report, released in early August, said the election was “procedurally and canonically problematic“ and that “irregularities create seeds of uncertainty that call into question the integrity of the process,” it also maintained that diocesan leaders were “devoted and faithful in their attempt to ensure a fair election” despite being “faced with an extremely unfortunate circumstance.”

In the video, Howard said he disagreed with the court’s criticism of election procedures. “I want you to know that I have been told, and I believe, that this convention [was] the most inclusive and participatory – the largest number of voters – at any convention in the history of our diocese,” he said.

“This is where we are. Our good faith, our integrity, our desire for a fair and open election is unquestioned, but we will be faced with the need to conduct another electing convention.”

Howard also said he had remained “very much at arm’s length” during the process that led to Holt’s election, but would meet this week with the standing committee and other advisers “to make some very simple, careful suggestions rooted in what I have said to you today about how to best move forward with healing and reconciliation at this moment in our life together.”

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.