By Michael Hunn

Now that I have outlined the purpose of the consent process and my thinking about how to approach giving or withholding consent to the election of Charlie Holt as Bishop of Florida, I want to consider some of the larger work ahead of us, if we are to be a church that functions coherently.

Our Anglican tradition holds in tension the local and the churchwide, often using the concept of subsidiarity as a guide. Subsidiarity is the principle that matters should be decided at the most local level possible, but that once those at a wider level have a stake in the matter, they should be involved in the decision. On consent, and all matters involved with it, bishops and standing committees clearly are involved in the decision, and so it makes sense that churchwide standards should apply to all episcopal elections. As a church, we need to agree upon standards for canonical residency and licenses, and not allow each diocese to create those on their own.

For example, in terms of canonical residency, there is a wide variety of practice, and a lot of confusion about what it means for clergy to be “canonically resident” and thus have a vote in diocesan conventions. I have served as an associate priest in a diocese that did not accept canonical residency of clergy who were not rectors. Some dioceses are magnets for retired clergy, not all of whom are active, even though they live there. Also, quorum issues differ from diocese to diocese. In some dioceses, only a portion of clergy active in ministry is needed for a quorum. In other dioceses, it is a portion of all canonically resident clergy, including those who are retired and no longer living in the diocese.


Objections to process are best when not confused with objections to the result of a process. In this election in Florida, the two are confused. Because standards differ across dioceses, are bishops and standing committees permitted to object to an election because they don’t agree with how a quorum was arrived at or who among the clergy was able to vote? When there are such differences between dioceses, what standards does the Court of Review use to decide on objections raised about the process? Is it only if a diocese clearly violates its own canons, or can objections be valid if the diocesan canons are flawed? If voting and quorum issues were the same across dioceses, people would know what to expect. It is clear that standing committees and bishops may withhold consent for any reason, but if the process were consistent across the church, there would be less confusion.

It would be helpful to have churchwide agreement about how bishop elections are conducted. I know there are best practices that many dioceses follow, but those best practices are entirely optional, and each diocese can conduct the process as it sees fit. Because each bishop is a bishop for all of us, it would make sense to establish a common process for how bishops are chosen in each diocese.

We also need to clarify other parts of the process and provide more information. Standing committees and bishops receive very little official information about each candidate’s election for which they are asked to consent. Needing more information to make an informed decision, I make it a practice to watch the walkabouts for each election before I decide, but each diocese has its unique approach to sharing such information, and it is not easy to find. Even when you know an election is taking place, it is not easy to find out where to watch it. Dioceses sometimes set up separate election websites or social media pages. They stream their walkabouts and elections in all sorts of places, and it isn’t easy to follow. A single location on that tracks episcopal elections, including links to videos and written information about the candidates, would be extremely helpful for bishops and standing committees.

The new software being used by the General Convention Office allows each bishop and standing committee to click a button either giving consent or withholding it. The software also allows each bishop or standing committee to change this vote at any time during the 120-day consent period. However, it has long been the practice of the church for the presiding bishop to take order for an ordination as soon as a bishop-elect has received sufficient consents, and to announce that the candidate has officially become the bishop-elect after receiving sufficient consents.

We either need to hold open the consent process for the entire 120 days, or not allow bishops and standing committees to change their votes, because under the current circumstances, it is possible that a bishop-elect would be announced, after which the votes might change before the period of 120 days is over, and that would be a major problem. The technology of how we gather consents is not in keeping with the way in which we have announced when consents have been reached. We need to sort that out. No Matter What Happens

I have only one consent to give or withhold, but even in this small thing I want my “yes to be yes” or my “no to be no ” in such a way that the unity of the Diocese of Florida and the unity of the Church Catholic are encouraged by my action.

Whether Father Holt is the next bishop, or whether there is a bishop provisional, or whether there is an election of someone else, the next Bishop of Florida has significant and difficult work of healing and trust-building in the years ahead.

If Father Holt receives consents, I shall be present to join in the laying on of hands as my commitment to him and to the Diocese of Florida, whether I consented or not. I shall welcome him as a member of the House of Bishops and encourage him to participate fully, and I shall do all that I can to help him integrate into the community of bishops of whom he will be a part.

There is grief in my heart over this whole situation, and there is pain that so many have felt on all sides of this. I am praying for unity, healing, kindness, and the courage that it takes to do the right thing. I remain committed to finding peaceful and reconciling ways for us to talk about our disagreements that respect the dignity of every human being. My trust in this, as in all things, is that the One calling us is faithful (1 Thess. 5:24).

The Rt. Michael B. Hunn is Bishop of the Diocese of the Rio Grande.

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Michael Tessman
16 days ago

This is a most well reasoned and spiritually deft argument for systemic reform in the HoB election/consent controversies. Kudos for Bp Hunn’s careful and prayerful analysis! If TEC is to institutionally incarnate the Gospel, and what it claims to be as an inclusive church, these reforms ought to be both considered and implemented asap!

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