To my brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Diocese of Florida,
My name is Joshua Loewen-Samuels, and I was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Howard at Holy Trinity, Gainesville, in 2021. I have also been a supporter of Fr. Charlie Holt from day one. For these reasons I have been reluctant to add my voice to the chorus of objectors.
Nevertheless, after waiting 10 months since the first election, I have been persuaded to go public with my experience because I believe that following Christ means bearing witness to the truth even when doing so comes at great personal cost.
I first met representatives from the Diocese of Florida in 2018 when they visited my seminary, Wycliffe College, an evangelical Anglican theological college within the University of Toronto, in order to recruit. Between 2018 and 2019 while I was in discernment conversations, I was told by a representative of the Diocese’s office on multiple occasions that Bishop Howard was retiring soon, and that he wanted to ordain as many evangelicals as possible in order to secure a conservative win in the forthcoming election. Not only did this motivate me to travel to Florida from Canada, taking along my wife and two young children; I even tried to persuade my fellow seminarians to join me precisely because of the time-sensitive window of opportunity for new ordinands.
Looking back, I didn’t think twice about this insight about the upcoming election because it appeared to just make sense: It’s within the best interest of any bishop to ordain as many clergy as necessary for the health and wellbeing of his Diocese, and naturally, any bishop would want their ordinands to reflect the overarching theological vision established by the ordinary.
Fast forward to May 15th, 2022. The first election was over. I was elated that Fr. Charlie Holt had won. But I also recognized that many of my parishioners were upset, including my own rector—Fr. Fletcher Montgomery—who was candidate in that election. It soon became apparent to me as a newcomer in the Diocese and to the parish that this was a delicate and precarious situation to find myself in. As an immigrant, I was aware that my Canadian cultural sensitivities might not easily track the various social cues highlighting conflict. Even so, my insider knowledge about the workings of the Diocese together with my first-hand experience of the situation on the ground at Holy Trinity, home to the “Love Out Loud” group that filed the Title IV disciplinary proceedings against +Howard, put me in an extremely difficult position.
Before the May 14th election, I had reached out to the Bishop for help navigating the complex pastoral and political situation that I found myself in. After the election, I had reached out for help to the Bishop when it became clear to me that I would likely need to conclude my curacy and move to another parish where there was less conflict of interest. Instead of receiving the Bishop’s support, however, the Bishop blamed me, shouted rebukes at me, and left me on my own to navigate the tenuous and broken relationship between Holy Trinity, Gainesville, and the Diocese. Merely days after reaching out to the Bishop’s office for help, I was asked not to return to the parish, the locks on the parish doors were changed, and I had to remove my belongings from my office after business hours. When I asked for help navigating this extremely distressful personal loss which came to me as a surprise, I was told by the Bishop that it was entirely my fault. I was told to ignore everything that happened and to move on. I was even required by him to attend Alcoholics Anonymous, despite the fact that I do not have a problem with drinking.
Over the summer of 2022, I interviewed across the Diocese while serving as a supply priest. Multiple parishes registered serious interest in hiring me, including St. Peter’s in Jacksonville where I had done an internship in 2019. I was looking forward to stepping into a new parish, but oddly enough, each time I was closer to receiving an offer, the Canon to the Ordinary would call me to say that the deal fell through, and I could no longer interview there. This was a strange experience because merely days before I would receive his call, I had a supportive message from the hiring parish. I began to suspect I was being stonewalled. This was frustrating because the Diocese knew that I was on a religious worker’s visa, which requires me to maintain full-time employment or risk facing deportation. I was assured by the Canon to the Ordinary that I would land in a new parish by July 31st, 2022.
My suspicion of being stonewalled was confirmed when … continue reading
Source – anglican.ink