Charlie Holt

May 16, 2023

Beloved in the Lord,

We greet you in this Resurrection season in the strong name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who prayed for us in the Garden of Gethsemane, that we all might be one.

We are writing to you in response to many questions we have received about where we are in the election process for our diocese. This is a lengthy letter, but we hope the details will give you the information you need.

Consent Process

On March 22, 2023, the Standing Committee officially filed for the consent of the wider Episcopal Church to the election of the Rev. Charlie Holt as Bishop Coadjutor. It is standard, and canonically required, that for every Episcopal election held in any diocese, 50% plus one of bishops with jurisdiction and Diocesan Standing Committees must consent to the election. 

This is a sort of check of mutual reliance that was instituted in the canons of the denomination many years ago. Bishops and Standing Committees have 120 days to consider and submit their decision. Our consent window is open until July 20. 

While this step is usually a mere formality, our situation is obviously much more complex. We know that most bishops and Standing Committees have taken this very seriously and have had long conversations and debates about whether or not to consent. 

For many of us, living so close to the situation, the decision may seem very clear in one direction or the other. But the wider church is considering carefully the actions and rulings of your various diocesan leaders, the Court of Review findings, the bishop-elect himself, and the requests of lobbying groups, all of which come with volumes of information to read and digest. We must be patient, difficult as that may be.

This is a seminal and fragile moment in the life of our beloved Diocese.  Whatever the outcome of the consent process, we are certain that there will be hurt feelings among us. We may be tempted once again to run to our corners, dig in our heels, and indignantly insist on our own position. If we give into this instinct, the divisions among us will grow.

Brothers and sisters, we cannot let this happen.

As a family of faith, we must resolve now that, whatever the outcome, we will all trust that God has us in his gracious hands, and that we will turn our hearts towards one another. 

We will not act rashly, angrily, or victoriously, but prayerfully and humbly. We will lovingly give each other the space to feel what we each feel, rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep (Romans 12:5). We will come to church weekly to worship alongside one another and to share Communion together. Because we know that God’s property is always to have mercy, we will therefore accept bravely what the Lord allows to come our way, and trust that He will make the way forward for the Diocese of Florida. 

At the first election, now a year ago, the Standing Committee had the Bible in front of Convention open to 2 Chronicles 20:12, where King Jehoshaphat prays in the midst of a crisis, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” This remains our mantra, and we invite you to join us in it.

Listening Process

When we announced to you on March 22 that we had filed for Consent, we also announced that we were beginning to work with the Rt. Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves on a process of listening and reconciliation. 

Bishop Gray-Reeves has a great deal of formal training and experience in church reconciliation work, including on a diocesan level. The early years of her own episcopate in the Diocese of El Camino Real required much of this sort of work. Since stepping down as diocesan bishop in January 2020, she has consulted in various church settings involving conflict resolution, while also serving as Managing Director of the College for Bishops.

Since March, Bishop Gray-Reeves has been working with the Rev. Charlie Holt, the Rev. Joe Gibbes, President of the Standing Committee, and Mrs. Lenora S. Gregory, Vice-Chair of the Diocesan Council, to design the first stages of a Process for Listening and Reconciliation in the diocese.

Recently, May 4-6, Bishop Gray-Reeves traveled to the Diocese of Florida for the first phase of the listening process, meeting in separate sessions with the Standing Committee, Diocesan Staff, and the Diocesan Council. She advocated that we begin with the elected and appointed Diocesan leadership in order to give these bodies at the forefront of the work of the election process an opportunity to be heard and to listen to one another. This also allowed her to test the process before moving it out to the wider diocese. 

Further, she has gathered information that will inform the planning team as they work together to structure effective gatherings with other groups in the future, likely to take place after the consent process has concluded. These groups will include clergy and laity of all opinions and positions. The process is not adhering to a set curriculum or program but is rather organic and developing according to the Diocese’s specific needs as events unfold. We expect this process to take several months since so many want to be heard.  

These first listening sessions were experienced as quite successful. Bishop Mary’s skillful, pastoral, non-anxious approach invited vulnerability and honesty in every session. In her words, “It was holy work.” We are optimistic that whatever divides our hearts can be mended and that we can learn again to work together towards shared mission throughout the Diocese.

Potential Scenarios

Many have asked what will happen if the Rev. Holt does not receive the required consents.

First, you should know that the Standing Committee will continue to contend for the validity and success of our election with any who will listen until consents close on July 20.

Furthermore, Bishop Howard will remain the Bishop until his retirement, which is scheduled to take place in the fall. After his retirement, if it should happen that consents are not achieved, we will follow the canons of the General Convention, which state that when there is no bishop in place, the Standing Committee becomes the Ecclesiastical Authority. 

In this case, the Standing Committee would have different canonical options from which to discern regarding the level of episcopal leadership within the Diocese of Florida; in no case would a bishop simply be appointed by the office of the Presiding Bishop.

While the Standing Committee will look prayerfully at all options as the needs arise, in consultation with our Chancellor and the Presiding Bishop’s office, our strongest preference is of course that the November election be validated by the bishops and Standing Committees of The Episcopal Church.

Finally, we want you to know that the Rev. Joe Gibbes will be taking a sabbatical for the summer beginning Monday, May 29. He will return to church on Sunday, Sept. 10. The Rev. Teresa Seagle will serve as acting President of the Standing Committee in his absence.

Please keep them both, the entire Standing Committee, and the future of our Diocese in your prayers during this time.

With faith in the goodness of Jesus Christ,

Your Standing Committee