Bishop Heather Cook resigns as Bishop Suffragan and has been deposed

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In two separate but concurrent actions, Bishop Heather Cook resigned today as Bishop Suffragan of Maryland and has reached “an accord” which means that she may no longer function as an ordained person in the Episcopal Church.

In the first action, the Diocese of Maryland announced today that Bishop Sutton and the Standing Committee have accepted Heather Cook’s resignation as Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese.

Diocese of Maryland:

The Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton and the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland today announced the acceptance of the resignation of Heather E. Cook as bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. This means that Cook is no longer employed by the diocese. The acceptance of Cook’s resignation is independent of any Title IV disciplinary action taken by the Episcopal Church.

WBAL-TV:

The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland announced Friday it has accepted the resignation of Bishop Heather Cook.

The statement said Cook is no longer employed by the diocese and that her resignation is independent of any disciplinary action the diocese could take.

The diocese sought Cook’s resignation in January after she was charged in the death of bicyclist Thomas Palermo. A trial date is set for June 4.

Prosecutors have said they have evidence that Cook did not apply the brakes on her Subaru during the crash that killed Palermo in December. Cook’s blood-alcohol content was 0.22 — nearly three times the legal limit — and she was texting right before the crash, prosecutors said.

In a related but separate action, the Presiding Bishop’s office announced today that an accord has been reached with Bishop Heather Cook, who will no longer be allowed function as an ordained person in the Episcopal Church. An “accord” means that Cook has agreed to the terms of her deposition under the terms of Title IV and will forgo an ecclestiastical trial.

Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs:

The office of Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has released information concerning Heather Cook of the Diocese of Maryland.

Pursuant to Title IV of the Canons of The Episcopal Church, the Presiding Bishop and Bishop Cook have reached an Accord.  Under the terms of the Accord, Bishop Cook will receive a Sentence of Deposition, pursuant to which she shall be “deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority of God’s word and sacraments conferred at ordination.”

As such, Cook will no longer function as an ordained person in The Episcopal Church.

The Accord resolves all ecclesiastical disciplinary matters involving Cook.

This Accord is separate from any resolution of employment matters involving Cook and the Diocese of Maryland as well as from criminal matters pending in the secular courts.

Cook was charged with manslaughter, texting while driving, and driving under the influence in the fatal crash that killed cyclist Thomas Palermo by Maryland’s state’s attorney Marilyn J. Mosby.

 

Posted by Andrew Gerns

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Anne Bay
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Anne Bay

clarification on above comment: should read: "a new program to educate the congregations in what the Disease of Alcoholism is is necessary, "

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Anne Bay
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Anne Bay

I have been reading the articles on this site in order of what happened in the Heather Cook DUI progression of facts. A lot of opportunities to avoid having her nomination to be Suffragan were missed-through uneducation about the Disease of Alcoholism and the failure of doing a thorough background check into her criminal history as well as work employment history,etc. Anyone can go on the internet and find out a person's arrest history and it would have prevented her nomination from going through. Anyone who knows anything about DUI's is there is no such thing as "just one." The naivite of the selection committee was huge. As far as preventing the tragedy of Mr. Palermo being killed by Heather Cook, that's not possible to know. However, preventing her from becoming a bishop would have saved a lot of money, time, and emotional investment. Clergy need to be scrutinized more carefully than ever before. All clergy, not just bishops. Alcoholism is a progressive disease, so it's possible that an Alcoholic's disease may not have been so obvious when they were younger, but as they age, the disease becomes clear to those who know what to look for. I read the comments from Bishop Sutton that she was drunk at her pre-consecration dinner-to those of us who have been involved in recovery, that was the prime opportunity to stop the consecration. From what I read, it was made clear to all present she was drunk. That moment makes it chrystal clear that a new program to educate the congregations in what the Disease of Alcoholism is and we are fortunate to be living in a new era of awareness, scientific knowledge of the Disease, many qualified experts to present programs on the Disease, and open meetings that people can attend of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-anon. Alateen meetings are usually 'closed" but if it's an Alateen speaker meeting it's often "open" to anyone. And every state in the U.S. has many A.A. -Al-anon Conventions that are open to all. There is no excuse not to get the information about this Disease. It's estimated that one in three children are affected by the Disease of Alcoholism. The family and friends of the Alcoholic need to go to meetings just as much as the Alcoholic. In Los Angeles there are over 3000 A.A. meetings a month and over 400 Al-anon meetings. There are many Alateen meetings also. Since Heather Cook's career as a clergy person has come to an end, it is obvious that the clergy are going to be on the "hot seat" for a long time to come. And anyone wanting to become a clergy person is going to be scrutinized more than ever before and probably rightly so.

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Anne Bay
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Anne Bay

I think there were a variety of reasons that the "sentence of deposition" was determined. And Ms. Cook resigned from the Diocese too. The focus now will be on the upcoming trial. She needs to just work on her recovery and from what I've read she has been in denial of her Disease for many years, so it's anyone's guess how her sobriety challenges will take her. There is hope for her to learn how to stay sober. This whole thing is such a tragedy, and the Palermo family and friends will never be the same. Hopefully General Convention will be able to get in a good discussion on the election process for bishops,with special attention on what to look for in the candidate's physical condition as well as the psychological and spiritual. Maybe have the candidate have a physical with a doctor who is in Addiction Medicine, so no repeats of the overlooking of the Disease of Alcoholism/Addiction to drugs takes place. It takes an expert to know what to look for. Also, I think a therapist who is a trained Addictions therapist needs to be the psychological examiner. The Diocese of Maryland now has no suffragan and all the work falls on one person-Bishop Sutton. I don't think any stone should go unturned when examining potential candidates for bishop. There is no excuse to "walk on eggshells" as the saying goes when understanding the Disease of Alcoholism.

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Steven Ford
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Steven Ford

Resignation as a diocesan employee and "acceptance" of a sentence of deposition are obviously closely linked. And I seriously doubt there will be a criminal trial. Ms. Cook's lawyers are certainly aware that a privileged white woman will not fare well with an extremely aggressive prosecutor and a Baltimore jury. There will be a last-minute plea. So much for transparency. The Palermo family will eventually extract the truth.

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John Chilton
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John Chilton

Despite the word "separate" it's hard for me to accept that the dual actions were not linked.

I note that she did not resign for some time even though her resignation was requested. Did the resignation coincide with notice that a deposition trial was scheduled? Was that her calculus -- to stay on salary and benefits until a trial was eminent? Was that the church's leverage to get her to resign? (It had no other leverage.)

Besides gaining her resignation what do the powers that be gain from not holding a deposition trial? Wouldn't it be healthy to have held that trial and perhaps learn more facts? Can you hold a trial if the defendant wishes to accept deposition?

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Jim Frodge
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Jim Frodge

The powers that be in the church gain a lot from this action.

The Title IV action has stopped and there will be no trial. People will not have to answer questions about what they knew about Heather Cook's problems, when they knew it and what they did about it. Bishop Sutton has said that mistakes were made but now the people in the pews will never know what those mistakes were or who made them.

This all changes of course in the event that the Palermo family takes legal action. Perhaps our best chance of finding out what happened lies with the courts and not the church.

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Daniel Berry, NYC
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Daniel Berry, NYC

I don't see how anybody can call this "good." It's the latest chapter in an ongoing, terrible, tragic, heartbreaking, soul-rending story--for everyone involved--for everyone in the diocese, everyone in any faith community willing to confront the ways - sometimes very dark ways - that we can and often do fail one another. The testimony of the Resurrection is that, horrible as this is, it isn't - or doesn't have to be - the last word. For me this story is a challenge to look at the many ways I fail myself and others, and to ask for grace to walk a different road than that of my own desires.

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Philip Snyder
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Philip Snyder

It is good that she resigned and was not fired.
It is good that she agreed to discipline and was not forced into it.
It is good because she has a chance to have her self-image stripped away (prison can do that to you - particularly if you are an upper-middle class/lower upper class white person) and she can get real with herself.
It is good that she will probably be sent to prison where people will call each other on their BS.

None of the men I meet in prison like being there, but some of them tell me they are glad they came because in prison they had a chance to meet themselves as they are and to turn to God as they are, not how they think themselves to be.

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Walter combs
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Walter combs

You are spot-on! It will be necessary for Heather to 'get real' humble. Nothing short of brutal honesty enables an addict to begin a lifetime of recovery. Plenty of other addicts in prison. Some of them are willing to do the hard work it takes to turn it all around. I am praying that Heather is willing to let those people come along side of her and support her in the work of her recovery. As a substance abuse counselor I remind my clients that 'you alone must do it, but you can't do it alone'.

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Anna Marion Howell
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I couldn't agree more.

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Anna Marion Howell
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https://sulfurfreejesus.wordpress.com/2015/05/01/a-prayer-for-heather-cook/

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Philip Snyder
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Philip Snyder

This is good. I am glad that we didn't have to go through a trial court for Title IV. I am also glad that Heather Cook resigned from her position at the Diocese.

I pray that she uses this time and the resources at the prison where she will probably be sentenced to come to grips with her apparent addiction to alcohol and/or any other substances. There are (at least in Texas) several good treatment option in Prison.

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