In the past few days, a number of commentators have begun to wrestle with some of the questions raised by the sad case of Heather Cook and Thomas Palermo in Baltimore, Maryland.
In today’s Speaking to the Soul, the Revd William Doubleday reflects on these questions through the lens of his experiences as hospital chaplain, pastor, church historian, and educator.
On the blog Angels in the Alley, the Revd Dr Hilary Smith posts with the subtitle, “I Never Felt Peer Pressure to Drink Until I Joined the Episcopal Church:”
I never felt peer pressure to drink until I joined the Episcopal Church. Let me give you a few examples of what I mean. So many times at church events, when I am offered a glass of wine or a beer, and I decline… immediately the person follows up with, “it’s ok, you can have a drink.” I usually have to refuse the drink two or three times before the person will let it go. During an interview process for a position in a church, I was offered a drink by a vestry member during the social time before dinner. When I stated that I was “good” with the water I was drinking, this vestry member stated, “We like to drink with our priest.” I didn’t get that job.There is culture in the Episcopal Church of drinking and being proud of it.
The Very Revd Mike Kinman, of Christ Church Cathedral, St Louis, asks what is the right question to ask:
I have yet to see what I believe is the “right question” … the question I tremble to ask. The question that convicts us all – myself included.
What does this say about us? What does this say about the family system of the Episcopal Church?
The Revd Canon Andrew T. Gerns, contributing editor at the Episcopal Cafe, reflects at his blog on questions to ask candidates for episcopal ministry who may be affected by alcohol and addiction:
With with the clarity of hindsight, these are the questions that I wish the search and nominating had asked Heather Cook, and I hope that every future search & nominating committee asks some future candidate for the episcopate who has an addictions history:“Have you ever discussed your addiction and your recovery with your parishioners and colleagues?”and“How have you integrated your recovery into your preaching, pastoral care, and teaching?”and finally,“Would you be willing to have a candid discussion of your experience with the whole search and nominating committee? How would you answer a question about your DUI in a public forum?”My belief is that recovery is not just something you do, but something one lives. That really successful recovery happens when the person not only refrains from drinking or using drugs but integrates what it means to be in “constant recovery” into their daily living. Recovery requires the whole person in a living context: emotional, relational, medical, and spiritual.
Answers may yet be few. But the conversation has at least begun.
Posted by Rosalind Hughes. Updated 1/13/15 @18:46 to include links to Andrew Gerns and Anjel Scarborough.