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UPDATED: Retired bishop says Cook unfit to serve; Prosecutor to hold news conference

UPDATED: Retired bishop says Cook unfit to serve; Prosecutor to hold news conference

UPDATED: A link to Ihloff’s reflection in full.

The Baltimore Sun has the report.

… the case has continued to reverberate through the Episcopal Church, with the Rt. Rev. Robert W. Ihloff, a former bishop of Maryland, writing in a church email newsletter Thursday that Cook’s actions after the collision mean she is no longer fit to serve as a bishop.

“She has violated the basis for our trust in leaving the sceane of the accident,” wrote Ihloff, now the interim rector of the The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Baltimore.

“All persons have a moral responsibility to stop whatever the nature of an accident. When a life hangs in the balance, that duty to stop and assist is especially crucial.”

Ihloff wrote: “Can she be forgiven? Yes, by God and after repentance. Can she be trusted as a leader of the Christian Church? Sadly, ‘No.'”

The same article reports the prosecutor has scheduled a news conference for 11AM Friday. The prosecutor was inaugurated just this evening of Thursday January 8.

Addendum. A further excerpt from Bishop Ilhoff’s reflection dated today, January 8:

None of this is made better by the fact we are still waiting for charges to be filed and do not know a number of key details.

We do know an innocent man is dead and his family grieving.  We know that Heather, the driver of the car left the scene of the accident and returned later.  We do not yet know other crucial details; there is much speculation.  However we know enough to assume Heather will not be allowed to resume her episcopal ministry.  Why?  She has violated the basis for our trust in leaving the scene of the accident.  All persons have a moral responsibility to stop whatever the nature of an accident. When a life hangs in the balance, that duty to stop and assist is especially crucial.  We will, sadly, never know if Heather’s stopping and calling 911 would have enhanced efforts to keep Tom Palermo alive; what we do know is she ceased being “a  wholesome example,” as she drove away.  Can she be forgiven?  Yes, by God and after repentance.  Can she be trusted as a leader of the Christian Church?  Sadly, “No.”  This accident will haunt her the rest of her life, regardless of what other details eventually come out.  The Church deposes clergy who cross boundaries of sexual morality or who embezzle money or are guilty of a variety of crimes, including “hit and run.”  It’s not that these persons no longer have a ministry or God can’t use them, it’s that we can no longer trust them to model a “wholesome example” as leaders in the Church. Already, Presentment charges are being prepared by The Episcopal Church which will almost assuredly result in Heather being deposed.  Of course, we should hold her in prayer and trust in time, God will be able to guide her into new ways of service. She may even  be able in time to draw on her tragic story in ways which will edify others.  We should all be humbled in this tragedy to realize anew how potentially dangerous each of us can become behind the wheel of a car if we are inattentive, distracted, or careless.  We can be more watchful and courteous to bikers and pedestrians (as well as to other drivers).  We cannot change this tragedy, but we can learn from it.

Posted by John B. Chilton

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Dani Johnson

Some things that jump out at me in all that has happened to date: If I were in the Bishop's shoes, the thought of minimizing what's happened (and, please -- those insisting we can't possibly know the facts of this case until a trial aren't being reasonable creatures) would be the last thing on my mind. There's no way to minimize what's happened. The only possible salvation left is to own what's happened, to visit the Palermo family, and give an abject apology seeking to explain, not to excuse, how it happened. Bishop Cook instead has chosen to say and do nothing except what appears to be legally expeditious. Giving the rather unbelievable circumstances of the 2010 DUI plea deal, individuals of only ordinary integrity would perhaps have chosen to keep the DUI on the record, rather than arrange a deal that would have expunged it from her record permanently. Additionally, in return for the possibility of forgiveness, I feel many mere mortals would have insisted that *all* those voting on her selection know about the incident. I simply don't understand how a worthy candidate could accept her post, knowing full well those selecting her were unaware of facts that would leave them feeling badly deceived if they ever did find out.

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Torey Lightcap

With texting and driving as a sudden inevitable subject of interest in the church, here is a reminder that Werner Herzog made a short film about it, and that it will shred you in all the right ways. It's about nostalgia, regret, and how one second of thoughtless impulsive action can permanently shatter the histories and intersections of so many lives. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BqFkRwdFZ0

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Meredith Gould (@MeredithGould)

This just in, charged with manslaughter, DUI, and texting while driving: http://bsun.md/1KsB2AC

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Joie Weiher

I am relieved to hear a prominent leader in our church speak the truth. I've been saying similar things since this happened but received hate mail for it. Compassion must reign but whatever details emerge or do not emerge the facts we already have preclude Bp. Cook from functioning in her role. Love, prayer, and yes, OUR "5 BAPTISMAL PROMISES" are not mutually exclusive of accountability and good leadership.

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Meredith Gould (@MeredithGould)

As a longtime church communications professional with expertise in digital ministry (including crisis communications), plus someone whose ministry includes healthcare (including dying and death issues), I'm relieved to see this statement of Bishop Ihloff's being shared via this social networking platform. Kudos to Episcopal Cafe.

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