The Rev. Joe Gibbs, rector of the Church of our Savior in Jacksonville and President of the Central Florida standing committee, recently published an op-ed supporting the election of Charlie Holt as bishop coadjutor. Unfortunately, his article contains one factual inaccuracy and a nonsequitur that undercut his argument.
His factual inaccuracy is that the Provincial Court of Review has no Title IV obligations. That runs counter to the language of Canon IV.4.1 (f), which requires all clergy to:
report to the Intake Officer all matters which may constitute an Offense as defined in Canon IV.2 meeting the standards of Canon IV.3.3, except for matters disclosed to the Member of Clergy as confessor within the Rite of Reconciliation of a Penitent;
Thus, all clergy on the Provincial Court of Review must report, as is the case for Gibbes and every priest, deacon, and bishop. No clergy are exempt, and there is no Fifth Amendment regarding Title IV. Clergy thus must report their own misconduct.
We’re also profoundly troubled that Gibbes can serve as President of the Florida Standing Committee when he lacks — or misrepresents — such a basic aspect of Title IV and clergy discipline in the church. Indeed, the fact that he and others appear not to have followed the Title IV reporting requirements raises the possibility of systemic problems, both in the election and the diocese itself.
As we have said many times, bishops, intake officers, and other judicatories need to sit down and read and reread Title IV before invoking Title IV, plunging into these issues or a Title IV proceeding. We often see intake officers, bishops, chancellors, and others acting outside their authority under Title IV. The result typically is irreparable harm to the church, its reputation, and relationships within the church. Indeed, the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons says:
On the issue of his nonsequitor, the comparison to the election of Gene Robinson fails. There was no concern in Robinson’s case that ongoing misconduct by a sitting bishop influenced the election results or that Robinson’s election would perpetuate the transgressions of a predecessor.
There’s also the sniff test. When, as here, the incumbent has so thoroughly inserted himself into the election process and made clear his preferences apropos the outcome, we worry that the election process does not reflect a democratic process. Instead, it starts to look like an oligarchical process.
We reiterate that Anglican Watch supports a big tent view of the church. But that big tent includes LGBTQ+ persons — without requirements of celibacy or other issues forbidden by General Convention—a point Gibbes sidesteps in his op-ed.
We also recognize the similarities between the Florida election and that of Mark Lawrence. The latter told everyone what they wanted to hear, even though he was already planning his schism. Thus, all involved need to remember they are in a “once bitten, twice shy” environment. (To make matters even more challenging, one of the worst offenders when it comes to playing by their own Title IV rules is none other than Todd Ousley, who is best described as clueless corruption on wheels. Nothing like the Piskie Bros looking out for each other.)
As for Holt’s adhering to the doctrine and discipline of the Episcopal Church, nothing we have seen suggests a problem on that front. But a big tent is just that, a big tent, and Howard’s alleged imposition of a double standard for LGBTQ+ clergy is a clearcut Title IV violation. Just ask Bishop Love.
Thus, with Holt so closely tied to Howard and Howard so profoundly involved in the election, it only makes sense that tough questions are coming up.