‘Fundamentally unfair’: Episcopal bishop's election challenged for the second time

The Rev. Charlie Holt of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida in a video posted to YouTube on June 16, 2022.
The Rev. Charlie Holt of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida in a video posted to YouTube on June 16, 2022. | YouTube/DioceseFL

A clergyman who was elected to a bishop position within the Episcopal Diocese of Florida is having his election challenged for the second time this year.

The Rev. Charlie Holt, whose election to bishop coadjutor was first disputed in May, had a second challenge leveled against him late last month.

A group of 29 clergy and lay delegates who participated in the election argued that the second election process was "fundamentally unfair," claiming that there were various problems with the process, reported Episcopal News Service.

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These included allegations that the convention unfairly excluded certain clergy delegates and that at least one clergy voter was not present for the election.

The 29 delegates protesting the second election for bishop coadjutor have met the 25-delegate minimum required to file a formal objection, according to ENS.

Holt sent a letter to diocese members earlier this week, comparing the dispute over his election to a trip he took to the Middle East, where he got to touch what is believed to be the exact location where Jesus was crucified.

"Placing my hand in the square hole that held the foot of the cross forced me to fall to my knees and literally crawl under the altar table. There is no other way to touch Calvary but by a physical action of humiliation on your knees," wrote Holt.

"I cannot think of anything else in my life that has forced me to my knees to crawl under the altar of Calvary as this process has done. It has been a true humiliation in every sense of that word."

Holt is "confident that the leaders who oversaw the election will carefully address the process concerns it raises in good order."

"As the consent process moves forward over the next several months, I intend to assure bishops and Standing Committees that we in the Diocese of Florida are and will be faithful Episcopalians who long for the Holy Spirit to bring us into closer relationship with our friends in Christ," he continued.

"We are the unified body of Jesus Christ made up of many diverse members all with vital roles to play. So, let us speak well of one another and remain reverent toward the beloved and holy Church of Jesus Christ of which we are all called to be a part."

On May 14, an election was held to choose a successor to the diocese's current bishop coadjutor, the Rt. Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard, who plans to retire late next year.

After Holt's election, a group of 37 clergy and lay deputies argued that last-minute changes to the voting process and other issues rendered the vote invalid, reported ENS in May.

In early August, The Episcopal Church's Court of Review filed a report concluding that Holt's election had been improperly conducted.

"There is no doubt that the Diocese moved forward in a good faith effort to confront this last-minute challenge. However, as will be shown herein — and as was pointed out to the Diocesan leadership at the time — their decision to convene the Convention without a proper clergy quorum was procedurally and canonically problematic," reads the report.

"As a result of that decision procedural norms were changed on the fly, and irregularities occurred. It is impossible to say whether any particular irregularity made a material impact on the outcome; however, when taken together these irregularities create seeds of uncertainty that call into question the integrity of the process."

The diocese held a second bishop coadjutor election last month at Camp Weed in Live Oak. Holt beat out two other candidates. Holt received the vote of 56 clergy and 79 laity. The minimum needed to win the election was 56 clergy and 67 laity.

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