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Diocese of Maryland appoints Assistant Bishop

Diocese of Maryland appoints Assistant Bishop

At the Diocesan Convention held in Maryland last week, a resolution approved “the creation of the position of Assistant Bishop,” to be appointed by the Bishop with the consent of the Standing Committee, “under such conditions as the Bishop Diocesan may determine, until such time as the election of a Bishop Suffragan is deemed appropriate.”

The Assistant Bishop has been named as the Rt Rev Chilton R. Knudsen, former Bishop of Maine, presently serving as Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Long Island.

The Baltimore Sun has covered the case of former Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook in detail since the crash in which cyclist and family man Thomas Palermo died in December. Cook has since been arraigned on a number of charges including vehicular homicide and manslaughter charges, leaving the scene of a fatal accident, and drunk and distracted driving  She has pleaded not guilty, and her trial is set to begin next month. Cook recently accepted deposition as an ordained minister in an Accord reached with the office of the Presiding Bishop.

Reporting on the announcement of Knudsen’s appointment, the Sun wrote,

Knudsen, 68, says she sees the “heartbreaking” death of Palermo, a married father of two who was well known in the local cycling community, and the recent unrest in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray as tragedies that, while devastating, can, with prayer, serve as catalysts for change.

“In my very devoted Christian heart, I believe that every … moment of pain and every experience of grief and loss and anger breaks us open in a way that allows new things to happen,” she said in a telephone interview Monday. “I believe God can bring beautiful things out of awful things.

“I’m ready to help the Diocese of Maryland be part of that resurrection.”

Knudsen has co-authored two books on alcohol addiction and recovery, and has been public about her own struggles with addiction and ongoing recovery. In March, she led a Clergy Day workshop in the Diocese of Maryland on addiction and recovery issues. The Sun coverage continues:

Most who commented on her appointment were enthusiastic about it, including the Rt. Rev. Robert W. Ihloff, a former bishop of Maryland who has criticized the national church for taking more than four months to defrock Cook.

“I have known Bishop Knudsen throughout her episcopacy and consider her one of the leading bishops of the Episcopal Church — an excellent choice!” he said in email.

Indeed, most said her expertise would very likely become a strength in her new job.

“Given what sounds like the state of her recovery, I think she’s at a lower risk [of difficulties] than the average person would be,” said Dr. Benjamin Carey, a lifelong Episcopalian and a psychiatrist who specializes in addiction. “She knows how recovery works. She’s likely to have special insight in this area.”

Carey, of Virginia Beach, Va., was an outspoken critic of the Maryland diocese after Palermo’s death, arguing that it didn’t do enough to ensure that Cook remained in recovery after the 2010 incident.

Nate Evans, the president of Bike Maryland, a bicycle advocacy group that helped lead a commemorative ride for Palermo in January, said the hire shows the diocese has carefully considered just how it needs to reform.

He wasn’t prepared to comment as a cycling community leader, he said, but as a Christian, he was enthusiastic.

Knudsen will take up her new position in the Fall.

Photo credit: Posted by Rosalind Hughes



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Anne Bay

The Diocese of Maryland is in need of someone like Bishop Knudsen. She comes with high recommendations and many years of experience. I hope she is put to good use-her insights into parochial life as well as her living a life of recovery are what the Diocese of Maryland needs. I am hoping for a new awareness of how recovery works and education on what the Disease of Alcoholism/Drug Addiction is. Education is the key. I also hope she can bring in qualified professionals in the field of Addiction to conduct seminars and group discussions and also to have education on how Addiction affects everyone-not just the Alcoholic. Al-anon for the friends-family-employers-etc. is crucial. Alateen for the children affected, and most everyone has heard of Alcoholics Anonymous. Narcotics Anonymous is also available for drug addiction other than Alcohol. Nar-anon is for the friends and family of the drug addict. I’m hoping the Bishop encourages everyone to attend open meetings of these groups. All of them have websites that list meetings and will designate if they are open. The literature in all these groups is extremely informative and up to date and highly recommended. Recovery is a process too-it’s not at all like in the movies-where the person goes into a 28 day program and comes out completely different!!! I have met recoverying persons who did manage to go through a program and got into a life of recovery and have stayed sober and others who have gone through several programs and still have a difficult time maintaining their sobriety. As they say in the program, “it takes what it takes.” The people I have known who do the best are the ones who are willing to follow the suggestions provided by the program they are in. One day at a time, that’s for sure-for Al-anon too!

JC Fisher

I was thinking, “if Bishop Knudsen does a good job cleaning up the mess here, maybe she can move on to assist the Diocese of Central Florida” . . . but I think that the Diocese of Maryland at least—to use the language of addiction-recovery—KNOWS it Has.A.Problem.

JC Fisher

Oh, one more thing: “cyclist and family man Thomas Palermo” [RIP/RIG].

Is every mother (or mother of young children) a “family woman”? Because I don’t recall this phrase, and wonder about it.

John Chilton

Besides her great first name (wink), she fortuitously brings expertise in addiction and recovery to the Diocese of Maryland. See her co-authored book, “So you think you don’t know one?” —

Jim Frodge

I have to think that Bishop Knudsen is an excellent choice. She served the Diocese of Lexington well as Interim Bishop following the departure of Bishop Sauls. People in my parish still recall a time shortly after her appointment when she showed up unannounced on a Sunday and sat in the pews with the parishioners during the service. Her common touch and deep faith should serve the Diocese of Maryland well during this difficult time.

Paul Woodrum

The Diocese of Maryland will indeed be blessed to have the pastoral ministrations of Bishop Knudsen, especially through what I hope is a time of healing after its recent distress. However, I shall miss her here in the Diocese of Long Island where, in her own quiet way, she has been a remarkable presence.

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