Anglican Watch

Interesting detail on the election of Charlie Holt

the Rev. Charlie Holt

Charlie Holt, the controversial potential bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Florida, has issued a statement about the election with a noteworthy, albeit minor, issue. Specifically, he signs the statement as the “bishop coadjutor-elect.”

As the line from the movie says, “Not yet.”

Much of the letter is carefully worded and reflects the usual babble about love and unity. And while it avoids discussion of race or LGBTQ+ issues, it carefully references the Colorado shootings—a telling bit of triangulation.

For the record, Holt is not the anything elect until the majority of standing committees and seated bishops across the Episcopal Church approve him.

Given the issues with Mark Lawrence and his lies to the House of Bishops about how he was not going to try to lead his former diocese out of TEC, even as he was planning exactly that, Anglican Watch believes standing committees and bishops alike will take a cautious approach.

We also expect objections to his election to be filed with the national church.

Thus, it may seem like hair-splitting, but the election of a bishop involves more than just voting in the immediate diocese, and it’s important not to treat approval as given or a rubber stamp. So no, Holt has not been elected anything yet.

A copy of Holt’s letter is here.


  1. This is not an interesting detail. It’s common practice for candidates who win election to use the title “Bishop-elect” while pending consents, as a quick google search proves. The reality is that the only “issue” here is that a minority of members in the diocese of Florida just don’t like who won and are determined to do everything they can to call the process into question.

    1. We respectfully disagree. As illustrated by the tone of your comment, the larger and more important issue is resolution of the underlying conflict within the diocese. The notion of, “we won, get over it” underscores a toxic organizational culture that threatens the interests of all parties.

      We also question whether hiring Holt onto staff was appropriate. Not exactly conducive to conflict resolution.

    2. It is attitudes like this that are the problem, not Charlie Holt. The diocese needs to focus on love, healing and acceptance, then worry about who the next bishop will be.

      On a larger level, such attitudes are a key reason we are in decline. Nor can you tell me that this situation doesn’t smack of a bishop and standing committee that are wiring the outcome they want.

      1. We can always count on you to serve it up unvarnished, Stink.

        And yes, this whole gaming the election thing is a recipe for trouble for the entire body of Christ as reflected in the diocese.

        1. This is like the spouse who says, “I need more time.” The response is, “hell no, we’re doing it NOW.”

          As a pastoral matter, the diocese has basically told those with concerns to go to hell. There is zero emotional IQ being shown in this situation.

          Neither Christian nor helpful.

        1. How about about reading 1 Corinthians 12:21 and acting like a priest by displaying pastoral concern for the more than 60 people who formally requested a delay in the election? That dog collar may be on a little too tight.

          1. How about “pastoral concern” for the rest of the diocese that is being put through a circus because a small group of delegates decided in advance that the vote was invalid? Is the whole diocese to be held hostage by their refusal to accept results they don’t like?

            And I have seen their Twitter feeds. You’re fooling yourself if you think this only about the process and isn’t about the guy who won.

    3. Let me get this straight. The diocese has to throw out the results of an election because the losers’ feelings are hurt? What about the will of the majority? Doesn’t that count for anything?

      1. You are missing the point.

        Our position is that that the election was untimely. Thus, had the diocese taken our approach, there would be no results to throw out.

        Recall that there was a formal request to delay the election in order to work on issues of trust, communication, and healing. Many of the signatories were delegates to convention. In salient part, they said:

        We believe that this election is being rushed forward without systematically and thoroughly addressing some key issues that have become evident in the Diocese of Florida. We are concerned that this election will not be valid canonically, nor are the candidates being fairly and impartially presented by the diocesan office,” the letter reads. The signers of the letter, dated Oct. 12, include 31 delegates to the electing convention.

        Among the issues cited: “Trust has eroded in the diocese. Previously and long-scheduled opportunities for dialogue and communion among diocesan clergy and laity have been shut down by the diocesan leadership.”

        At its heart is a basic pastoral care skill, which is that if someone tells you that their need for trust is not being met, you take them seriously, listen carefully, help the person explore the issue, and work towards healing.

        Notice too what we are not saying: We are not saying that, in a pastoral role, you necessarily agree with the person. Charlie may prove to be a great choice. We sincerely hope so.

        But what are are deeply concerned about is the dysfunctional organizational dynamics. There are profound issues in any organization that ignores a request like this. Were I a priest in Florida, I would be much more concerned about the health of the diocese and much worried about who won. And I would focus on empathy, versus brushing the matter asides as one in which “losers’ feelings are hurt.”

        Until that is done, quickly and with a high degree of professionalism, look for major declines in ASA and membership in the diocese in the coming year.

        1. I get that a minority of the diocese personally feel that there isn’t trust, but are those feelings valid? Can any group just suddenly decide there is no trust and throw out the results of any election?

          This would be a great opportunity for Anglican Watch to do some journalism. In their recent complaint to the Church, this group said some clergy who wanted to vote didn’t get to vote. Can any of them produce ordination certificates or letters of transfer of canonical residency? Some parishes didn’t get as many votes as they felt they should get. Do they have the ASA to qualify for the votes they wanted?

          Anglican Watch is so concerned about whether the diocese is trustworthy. This group intentionally submitted invalid votes because they decided in advance that the vote would be invalid. Perhaps ~this group~ is indeed the side that needs to check its behavior?

          1. As with many issues involving pastoral care, perception is everything. It’s entirely possible that those who are opposed to Charlie Holt are overreacting, or their fears unwarranted. We have no opinion on those issues.

            What does matter is care and unconcern for those in a bad place, and I would not let social media sway you from that goal. Even if some behave badly, what matters is caring for others in the church.

            And yes, pastoral concern even extends to election deniers. We have a few of those in our home parishes, and getting cornered at coffee hour by one makes us want to pour boiling coffee on ourselves as a positive distraction. But speaking on behalf of everyone here at AW, we try hard to listen, to demonstrate unflinching love, and ask questions that perhaps may lead both sides to a deeper understanding.

            Mediating the love of Christ doesn’t just extend to those who agree with us, who think like us, or even those who are rational. We’re called to unconditional love, and that extends even to those who behave badly.

            We’d also add that DioVA, where several of us live, made a similar mistake. There’s an enormous level of conflict in the diocese and it’s no secret that the search for a bishop interim collapsed because no one wanted to deal with the mess. Not that the diocese would ever call a spade a spade and actually admit it.

            True to form, Susan Goff talked about her commitment to healing, etc. She held a bunch of listening sessions, where we heard a lot about dysfunction and conflict. Then COVID hit, along with her own issues of breast cancer, and very little healing got done.

            Yes, she ended the uproar with the trustees of the funds, and the diocese finally figured out what it owns; records were so sloppy is was sitting on cash it didn’t even know it had.

            Thus, the elephant in the chancel is that incoming bishop Stevenson has an uphill battle ahead of him, did not get the advantage of a successful interim period, and may not prove successful, no matter how well-intentioned. Few want to say it out loud, but that is TEC in a nutshell.

            So, to tie together several thoughts:

            – The Alban Institute and every similar study shows that an intentional interim period is needed at both the diocesan and parish levels if incoming clergy are going to succeed. That includes making peace with the past, dealing with trauma, healing across differences. When one doesn’t happen, the success rate is very low.
            – The diocese would have been wise to deal first with its own health as the body of Christ, and second with the election. If it winds up with a bishop interim, that is okay too, as long as the focus is on caring for one another. That’s the priority, not the election.
            – We see no signs of a plan to work through these issues. Conflict ignored is conflict multiplied, and Florida looks like it’s heading down that path. If that’s the case, all sides to this dispute lose. There will be no winners.

            Hopefully all involved will let go of who’s right, who’s wrong, who said what on Twitter, and all that secondary stuff and focus on love, health, and healing.

            One final note: One of the things about working at AW is we get to see the ugly details of conflict up close. It amazes us how badly the church does conflict, how often perceptions vary from reality, and just how badly people behave in church. Stuff that would get you fired on the spot in a for-profit goes on for decades in the church and folks just ignore it.

            Our hope is that all involved can take a deep breath, get a group like the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center in, and treat conflict as a chance for growth, rather than a chance to body slam the perceived opposition.

            1. “We have no opinion on those issues.”

              Actually, you do. You stated in another article that the Church should intervene and overturn the election. But why? Because some people personally feel the results are unfair based on nebulous evidence? Is that really any way to run elections?

              You are not calling just for “pastoral concern” for election deniers. You are demanding that they get what they want. How is that “pastoral” to the majority of the diocese that elected Charlie Holt in good faith?

              “The Alban Institute and every similar study shows that an intentional interim period is successful at both the diocesan and parish levels if incoming clergy are going to succeed….”

              There was an intentional interim before the first election. There were no new candidates in the second election to consider. People had all the information about them they could want. There was no complaint about the interim or walkabout process in the original complaint. The diocese addressed the complaint about voter irregularity in the first election, and suddenly the complaint changed. You want to talk about fairness. Is that complaint really fair?

              “The diocese would have been wise to deal first with its own health as the body of Christ”

              Again, to what degree should elections be beholden to the baseless accusations of election deniers? Pastoral support is one thing. Giving them what they want is another.

              “We see no signs of a plan to work through these issues. Conflict ignored is conflict multiplied…”

              What if it’s actually the election deniers who are creating conflict? They didn’t even come into the second election in good faith. They cast invalid votes on purpose because they had decided in advance that the diocese was cheating.

              You want to be pastoral here, but a pastoral response begins with accepting the facts of the matter and with principles. Do we really want aggreived mobs with nebulous feelings of distrust overturning election results?

              You want the truly pastoral thing here? Help the losers of the election gracefully accept that they lost.

              1. A couple points of clarification: Given our progressive stance, Charlie Holt probably would not garner many votes around here. That said, we have no opinion on his election as bishop.

                We do have a position is on the handling of the election, which looks bad from every angle. So we reiterate: The diocese is far better off focusing on trust and health right now.

                That leads to the discussion of an interim, emphasis a successful interim. One indicia of success is that conflict is handled appropriately and as an opportunity for growth and development. Yet your own statements make clear this hasn’t happened—-you don’t trust those who disagree and regard them as “election deniers.”

                The we come to the logical fallacy, which is to ask, “What if it is the election deniers who are creating conflict?” Simply put, that doesn’t matter.

                Pastoral care and conflict resolution almost invariably hinge not on who is wrong or right, nor on who created the conflict. It’s about finding common ground, assuming good intent, and respecting the dignity of every human being and working through our shared humanity.

                We also note two other telling things about your post:

                1) It’s still postured in terms of “us” and “them.” The better approach is “we.” As in, “How do we work together to resolve concerns and have people feel good about the direction we are taking?”

                2) You seem concerned about “nebulous feelings of distrust,” but those are common in situations like this, and they are tremendously important. The diocese dismisses them at its peril.

                I’d encourage you to read Robin Hammeal-Urban’s excellent book “Wholeness After Betrayal.” In saying that, I am not focusing on potential misconduct.

                Rather, as a relatively young priest, you might find the discussion of the various layers of conflict helpful. From where we sit, it looks like you’re brushing past several of those layers, and the results are likely to be damaging on multiple fronts.

                A good start would be to let go of the who-is-right-who-is-wrong dynamic and try to hear what the other side is saying. You may agree, you may disagree, you may have no opinion, you may be ready to poke your eyeball out with a spoon by the time it’s done. But listening carefully and focusing on health and wholeness will greatly empower you in preaching the Gospel. And try to find those areas you CAN agree on.

                Another aspect to consider—and we touched on it earlier—is beware the conventional wisdom trap. Every diocese does it—folks form ideas about who is on the inside, who is on the outside, and who is a troublemaker, often based on nothing more than the talk at the last clergy retreat. The irony is that the church often gets it wrong, which lands it in situations where it punishes its friends and rewards its enemies. Oftentimes, our critics are our dearest friends, even though it may not feel that way.

                As we’ve said many times, with ASA dropping like a rock, TEC simply cannot afford to lose people. If there is any way possible to move forward with kindness and integrity, it is in the best interest of all to do so. Right now, the church as we know it is down to about 12 more Easters. So we encourage all involved to work together for peace and understanding. And we hope you and your parish can help in that process.

                1. Try to imagine if this was being done to Gene Robinson and tell me you would be saying the conservatives should given what they wanted for the sake of the tender feelings of unity of the diocese.

        2. This isn’t a favorable comparison, but should states act with “pastoral concern” to Trumpists who deny the validity of election results?

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