DATE: 25 May 2022
TO: The Diocesan Standing Committees and Bishops of the Episcopal Church
FROM: The LGBTQ+ Caucus to the 80th General Convention
SUBJECT: The Episcopal Election in the Diocese of Florida
Beloved of God, peace and goodwill in Jesus Christ!
Among the quickly changing variables leading up to this summer’s General Convention, much of the church’s attention has been focused on how to keep our people safe through the still-ongoing pandemic. We commend the presiding officers in their work and the difficult decisions they are making on our behalf.
It is amid these variables that we join our siblings dioceses and organizations across the Episcopal Church to express our grave concern about the recent election of the Reverend Charles Holt on 14 May 2022 as the Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of Florida.
In the ensuing days, videos of his answers to questions regarding his relationship and attitude toward racism and the LGBTQ+ community were circulated via social media, raising alarm bells across the church. [Those videos can be found here and here. And we encourage you to view Fr. Holt’s comments in full across the nine Meet & Greet events here.]
Within days of these videos being circulated, Fr. Holt and the Diocese of Florida issued an undated letter which was intended to assuage doubt and give clarity, but seemed to miss the issues at hand.
Primarily, we decry Fr. Holt’s comments regarding race and racism which were deeply offensive and objectionable. To suggest that the discontent over the murder of Trayvon Martin was primarily about unsolved cases and not about the senseless killing of unarmed African Americans is simply beyond the pale. Likewise, to declare in his letter that “I will encourage all of our congregations to build strong Christian ties with their nearest Black congregation neighbors in other Christian denominations” without requiring that predominantly white congregations do their own anti-racism work first, is to invite both an undue burden upon Black congregations and fails to understand the impact of racism in our own systems. We believe this is likely to create more harm than good, and endangers the work of racial healing and justice across our church.
Regarding the oath to uphold the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of The Episcopal Church, it must be recalled from the Summary of Opinion from Bishop Love’s trial that “Resolution B012 was properly constituted and passed as an authorized revision to the Book of Common Prayer as expressly provided for in Constitution Article X (b), thus requiring that all Bishops Diocesan permit their clergy the option to utilize such rites,” and further, “The canonical legitimacy of Resolution B012 rendered Canon I.18 mandatory, requiring adherence by Bishops Diocesan in permitting their clergy the option to perform same-sex marriage rites.”
While Fr. Holt has agreed to uphold General Convention Resolution 2018-B012 in his diocese, which is a minimum requirement, this does nothing to ensure even a base level of acceptable treatment for most LGBTQ+ Episcopalians and our allies. Would a Bishop Holt stymie the clergy of his diocese who were in favor of officiating same-sex weddings? Would he prohibit congregations from hiring an LGBTQ+ clergy or layperson? These forms of discrimination are the current reality in some dioceses that only meet the minimum requirements of 2018-B012.
In 2009, Fr. Holt condemned the decision of the General Convention to uphold LGBTQ+ ordination, stating publicly, “We are damaging the Body of Christ…This is not a faithful witness of the Gospel.” At the 2012 General Convention, he opposed adding gender identity and expression to the non-discrimination canons. Would he uphold these canons now and champion LGBTQ+ people under his care?
Fr. Holt was a founding director of the American Anglican Council in the 2000s when they were actively seeking to remove the Episcopal Church from membership in the Anglican Communion. A number of his co-directors have since joined breakaway churches. He has not stated whether he believes a bishop can legitimately lead a diocese out of the Episcopal Church.
Our concern about Fr. Holt’s election is not that he expresses a more theologically conservative perspective, or that he cannot personally endorse same-sex marriage. As B012 states, “this Church continue[s] to honor theological diversity in regard to matters of human sexuality.” The question we raise is not “does he share our theology?” but “will he abide by our shared polity?”
These are serious questions about Fr. Holt’s commitment to the people, witness, and assets of the Episcopal Church, as well as his apparent lack of understanding the real implications of systemic injustice against Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and LGBTQ+ people in our society and this church.
We urge every bishop with jurisdiction and every Standing Committee to sincerely consider these concerns and if necessary request further clarification from Fr. Holt and the Diocese of Florida before discerning whether to offer consent to his election.
We join this church in prayer for the Diocese of Florida, Fr. Holt, and all of our bishops as successors to the Apostles following the Shepherd of ALL, Jesus Christ.
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