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Bishop Heather Cook: A request for resignation from the Diocese of Maryland

Bishop Heather Cook: A request for resignation from the Diocese of Maryland

Breaking news from the Diocese of Maryland. Here is the letter sent to all churches today

Baltimore, MD — The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland has requested Heather Cook’s resignation as bishop suffragan in a letter sent through her lawyer on January 27. On Dec 27, 2014, Heather Cook hit and killed cyclist Thomas Palermo, 41, and has been charged by police with vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence, and texting while driving, among other charges.”It was clear that our lay and clergy leaders on the Standing Committee felt that the best interests of the diocese would be served were Heather to resign. Since this does not impede the Episcopal Church’s investigation into the matter, it is my hope Heather will see the wisdom in this recommendation,” said the Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, bishop of Maryland.The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland is acting as swiftly as it can in the context of the Episcopal Church’s disciplinary action, Title IV, currently underway. While Cook cannot resign her orders as a bishop while the disciplinary process is underway, nothing prevents her from resigning as an employee of the Diocese of Maryland.

Follow this link to read the Standing Committee’s letter.


For news, information and resources regarding the Heather Cook case, please visit


Media Contact:
Please contact Sharon Tillman, director of communications for the Episcopal Churches of Maryland,

The Baltimore Brew has published an in-depth story examining Bishop Heather Cook’s life from a more intimate perspective – the turns her life took before and after priesthood, both healthy and destructive, friends’ and colleagues’ views of her as a person and as a bishop and her close relationship with family.

They are not totally silent, the people who knew Heather Cook before December 27 – the terrible day when, texting and severely intoxicated, the Episcopal bishop plowed into a bicyclist pedaling along a Baltimore bike lane and killed him.

Online and in conversations with The Brew, they wrestle with how Cook’s actions that day – in particular, fleeing from the scene of the crash – square with the warm, empathetic, down-to-earth person they knew her to be.

“She’s good people,” said Rev. John Morris, in an online forum, recalling Cook from her days as the rector in charge of a suburban parish in York, Pa.

The story addresses Bishop Cook’s destination on the day of the December accident:

Those listening closely at the end of a recent public gathering of local Episcopal clergy and laity heard an answer:  She was not headed off on church business that day, according to her superior, Bishop Sutton.

“She was going,” Sutton said, “home to the Eastern Shore.”

Records show Cook still owns the home she bought across the Chesapeake Bay after her appointment as Canon to the Ordinary at the Diocese of Easton.

The house is about 100 miles from Cook’s gated apartment community in North Baltimore, so it appears she was embarking on a nearly two-hour drive while extremely intoxicated.

Cook’s family was close-knit. Alcoholism was not unknown in the family – her father, rector of Old St. Paul’s Church in Baltimore, struggled with addiction:

Thirteen years later [after a 1964 family photo first published in the Baltimore Sun], in a Sunday sermon, Cook told his congregation “I am an alcoholic,” discussing his addiction at length in the newspaper. In 1981,  as he stepped down from the position and retired from the ministry, he said was proud of his accomplishments but wearied by the stresses of the job, changes in the church and the “personal cost which has left me temporarily fatigued.” He died in 1989.

Heather Cook has spoken fondly of the summer ritual of gathering at their family place in Lansdowne, Ontario in the Canadian Thousand Islands, of golden retrievers and their father reading aloud from “Chronicles of Narnia.”



By way of resources, the Episcopal Diocese has added to its Bishop Cook case portal a link to a list of FAQs regarding Ecclesiastical Discipline.
The portal includes prayers, resources on addiction and pastoral care, information on the Palermo Children’s Educational Trust, links to pastoral messages and statements and other information. Scroll down to Moving Forward and Pastoral Letters to read the latest additions.

Photo: Flickr/Baltimore Brew

Posted by Cara Modisett and Ann Fontaine


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William Brewster Bird

Oh, By the way, Thank you Jennifer and Benjamin for your expertise and sharing.

William Brewster Bird

My prayers are with the church, Rt. Rev. Cook’s family, but mostly with Mr. Palermo’s family.. I have been a victim of a DUI, I have been engaged in long-term recovery, active in H & I ( look it up), registered as an AOD counselor- the bottom-feeders of the social work movement, least paid least appreciated(between $8.00/hr to $20.00/hr). I am also somewhat of a transportation activist, bicyclist, Boy Scout servant, and father of two sons. My Dad’s brothers were alcoholic. My Dad’s mother was a declared alcoholic. My Mom’s family contained some heavy drinkers. I am the son of a priest, grandson of a priest, great-grandson of a Bishop of two states ( Colorado and Maine). Surprisingly I am still an Episcopalian and a Christian, but somewhat ashamed of my so called Anglican brethren for separating from our church. ( That may be an interrelated issue but for another time).
I am appalled that we in the Episcopal church overlook ‘a good man’s fault’ when it now could mean life or death. Continued enabling will kill Ms. Cook.
I would tell my D.U. I. and inmate clients that out of 100 folks, ten are problem drinkers/druggers, of those ten 1 or 2 cannot stop using with out intervention, sometimes Divine and of the ten problem drinkers, five will have had scrapes with law enforcement at least 3 times prior to their first arrest ( yea, even minorities get breaks from law enforcement), and of the ten, 3 to 7 will get arrested for D.U.I. at least 1 time. That means that at least a third of all D.U.I. arrests are folks who are likely alcoholic. A true alcoholic cannot stop completely without a complete change of heart, mind, body and soul. Read the “Doctor’s Opinion” found in the text “Alcoholics Anonymous” and decide for yourself what the two most important words are for you in that part of the ” Big Book”. The text was so far ahead of its time. Also read anything by Sam Shoemaker (!) . The founders of AA wrote at the 6th grade level, so anyone could understand their text, and yet the Brain scientists are still uncovering what AA members have known for a really long time. One can heal if totally abstinent and be willing to share with another the exact nature of the problem.

Benjamin A. Carey MD

I am a cradle Episcopalian and Board Certified Addiction and Forensic Psychiatrist. Your comments are correct regarding the leadership of TEC. That Heather Cook had a BAC of 0.27 gm/dL should have been a Red Flag to the Search Committee and should have been addressed during the Walk About. The failure to disclose this to the laity and clergy who had to vote on her nomination is grossly negligent. That the PBp was aware of Bp Cook’s inebriation at the dinner two nights before the consecration and failed to halt the consecration is also grossly negligent and enabling of Bp Cook’s alcoholism. What would have been very helpful to know following the 2010 DUI is what treatment did she receive, was she in AA, had she completed a 4th Step, was she taking Naltrexone, etc.
To paraphrase Hamlet, “there is something rotten in the Episcopal Church”
Benjamin A Carey MD
CAPT MC USN (retired)
Addiction and Forensic Psychiatrist
Virginia Beach, VA

Jennifer Randall, LICSW

I went to seminary on a paid fellowship and left after one semester because I could not tolerate the bad psychology. The way Bp Cook’s history was dealt with by the diocesan leadership seems like just one more example of the church’s arrogance when it comes to the expertise of other professions. Any half-trained behavioral health intern could have told them that to put a person in early recovery into such a highly stressful and visible role is not forgiveness; it is sabotage. I cannot imagine that the examining psychiatrist did not note this fact. I know that previous guidelines have required a decade of sobriety prior to an elevation of this type, much more in keeping with our knowledge of recovery, but these were again disregarded. This seems to be a widespread issue in as many denominational churches as I have knowledge of. Church hierarchy: you do not know everything, practice humility and protect your people by seeking the expertise of _experts_ in whatever area you are called upon to make decisions. The life of faith is very broad, and church leadership cannot be expected to know what to do in every situation, but they can consult. _Please_ consult. Please. People depend on your integrity. Meaning well is not enough. This tragedy could and should have been prevented.

Benjamin A. Carey MD

See my post of February 4, 2015. Your description of the disease of alcoholism is correct as is your description of the failure of leadership.
Ben Carey MD

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