Anglican Watch was pleased to learn that Justin Holcomb has been elected fifth bishop of Central Florida. Specifically, we believe that he may bring awareness and compassion about abuse to the House of Bishops.
The House of Bishops (HOB) talks a good game, at least on sexual abuse. But when it comes to knowing a tree by its fruits, the HOB is an abject failure, both collectively and individually. Bishops routinely brush off victims, dismiss complaints on a pretextual basis, or simply ignore complaints. We won’t plunge further into the details; Anglican Watch is replete with specifics. And some of the worst offenders are well respected — Alan Gates, Todd Ousley and Michael Curry, here’s looking at you.
Holcomb, on the other hand, appears to get it. In addition to serving on the board of of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in Christian Environments), Holcomb has written about the subject of abuse. That includes addressed the happy-clappy nonsense about how victims can just “choose to get over it.” But the reality is PTSD and other trauma can’t just be willed away.
Even better, in an open letter to survivors, Holcomb doesn’t just limit his message to sexual misconduct. Unfortunately, the church is, like much of society, obsessed with sex. As a result, judicatories take a pass on all sorts of egregious misconduct.
Embezzle from your church? You’ll probably be back in the pulpit sooner rather than later. Bully people, engage in wage theft, fail to protect church assets? No biggy.
Have an affair? Boom! You’re outta there. (Unless it’s the Diocese of Virginia, where your reward is free counseling.)
And we note that Holcomb appears comfortable around abuse victims. We have not seen him engage in the usual TEC response of hitting the block button when the topic of abuse comes up, or when someone criticizes the church.
So, we are hoping that Holcomb, both within his diocese and within the larger church, is a voice of compassion and understanding on the issue of abuse. And we hope he advocates to expand misconduct prevention training to include bullying, spiritual abuse, and all the other items in the bag of tricks deployed by far too many clergy and lay leaders. That includes folks like Shannon Johnston with his whole laissez-faire attitude towards clergy discipline, even when it comes to illegal conduct.
Let us hope that the HOB, which has an uncanny knack for turning great priests into mediocre bishops, does not work its reverse magic on Holcomb.