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Episcopal Church begins disciplinary proceedings against Bishop Cook

Episcopal Church begins disciplinary proceedings against Bishop Cook

The Episcopal Church has begun disciplinary proceedings against a Baltimore-based bishop who fatally struck a cyclist with her car, an official in the diocese where she worked said Monday. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports:

National church leaders launched an investigation late last week after a complaint was filed with the church, said Sharon Tillman, spokeswoman for the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. The decision to move forward with an investigation was made by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and other national church leaders, Tillman said.

The purpose of the investigation is to determine whether Bishop Heather Cook violated church law.  Contacted for comment by telephone, Schori’s office referred The Associated Press back to Tillman.

“It is an in-depth process that comes with a full investigation,” Tillman said. “They are in the investigation stage.”

Read more here.


posted by Ann Fontaine


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Randall Stewart

The BaltimoreBrew is doing some interesting investigative reporting. Not sure this article radically changes the time frame-ultimately, the policie will determine that, but it does offer some more details:

Nick Porter

One has to ask, knowing the facts on hand, why won’t the bishop do the humble thing and resign and spare the church these proceedings?

Randall Stewart

The timeline given in the Diocesan statement indicates that the Bishop Sutton’s chief assistant, Rev’d. Slater, was contacted by Cook at 2:59. When he arrived at the scene of the accident at 3:10, she was sitting in a police vehicle and her vehicle had been marked off.

The reported time of the accident (in early reports) was 2:37.

The Diocesan statement did not indicate where Cook was at the time of her call, but in any case, it appears it was closer to a 20 than 45 minute time span that she left the scene, perhaps as much as 30 minutes.

Jim Jordan

First, I depend on the daily ENS e-mail newsletter to stay current with important, or not so important, events in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. ENS does a pretty good job, generally speaking, but like everyone else in the Church Center is trying to do more with fewer resources.
That said, I do think this accident meets the criteria ENS appears to use in its reporting and a timely report of the event would have been in order. Note that ENS staff are reporters of events, not investigative journalists.

Stuart Schadt

Circling the wagons means going into self protection mode. ENS is the communications arm of the national church funded through the diocesan funding of the national church. Diocesan funding comes from parishes which comes from members. I think ENS has a responsibility to report on a story of this magnitude.

David Streever

Ask and ye shall receive: ENS has written a story on Bishop Cook.

I expect they are off break & back to full-time work, as they had a bunch of stories come up in the last two days; I think my theory (that they were on break and not posting much content) now seems even more plausible than yours (that they were trying to circle the wagons and prevent people from learning about this.)

What do you think? Do you still think they were trying to commit a cover-up?

David Streever

Do you also think they have the staffing and resources? Did you review how few original stories they’ve written in the past few weeks?

You’ve ascribed a motivation to them (that they are deliberately hiding this story), but you haven’t supported that motivation; it’s still pure speculation. I agree that they should acknowledge the story, but I temper that expectation with the acknowledgement that they seem to be tiny, short-staffed, and underfunded. With those realizations, I don’t feel any sense of indignation or disappointment that they haven’t mentioned this story, and I don’t feel the need to ascribe untoward motivations to the small group of people who seem to work there.

Just this morning, my daily email from the Episcopal Church Public Affairs office contained 14 stories (normally it’s 5); 4 of those stories were about Bishop Cook. I have not seen any evidence of staffed, current, Episcopal church information sources hiding or denying the tragedy.

Please, see the web-version of the email above; this is an official notice from the Church to the public.

The vitriol and accusations I’ve been seeing against the Episcopal Church after this terrible tragedy seem to be more about the individuals making them than the church; I have yet to read a single explanation as to why the Church is responsible, but the sense I get from commentators like yourself is that the Church is at fault and is doing something morally wrong.

I sincerely hope you–and others–aren’t twisting the tragedy of Palermo’s death in order to talk about long-standing grievances you have with the Episcopal Church or religion in general.

Stuart Schadt

Hi David This story has had world wide coverage (Including BBC and Hong Kong China News) because she is a Bishop of the church. Everything she has done reflects on the church. Everything the church does in responding or not responding reflects on the church. The lack of a pastoral quote from the PB or a spokesperson for the House of Bishops reflects poorly on the church. I agree if you are inept silence is better than speaking but surely we have appropriate spokespersons to express our shock and grief. I read the silence as circling the wagons.

Connie Clark

I agree, Stuart, about “circling the wagons.” That’s what the public response on the part of the Diocese of Maryland and the House of Bishops/PB’s office feels like to me as well, and I am very disappointed.

David Streever

Circling the wagons would be suppressing or denying the information; the Episcopal News Service (a site I literally had never heard of before today) seems to primarily share press releases with semi-regularity, and doesn’t seem to provide much original reporting into crime issues.

I don’t think that your speculation is entirely founded in fact; if this story was being suppressed by the Episcopal church, I’d agree with you completely.

As I said before, I’m very new to the Episcopal church, and certainly don’t consider myself a defender of it; I honestly believe that I have little bias in this, and it’s hard for me to understand your point of view. The specific issue of Episcopal News Service, in particular, perplexes me. I don’t think that this organization is actually a news agency, nor does it purport to be, in any way beside the use of ‘news’ in the name; from the About page to the actual content they post, it seems like a site with a small following, sharing press releases & the occasional minor news that person x has been ordained or that such-and-such was born on this day in history.

Do you genuinely believe that the Episcopal News Service has a duty to do investigative reporting on crimes concerning members of the church? In what ways has this been communicated to you? Do you donate or support the ENS in any way that you have a ‘stake’ in their operations?

Do you honestly think that not writing about something which is being very heavily covered is the same as denying that it happened or dismissing the importance of it? If we look at your position with a little Kantian thought, the categorical imperative, can your opinion in this matter be rendered at large, across all other reporting? Would ENS be a moral failure and an apologist if they didn’t write a story on a male priest who shoplifted, or do you think they are only obligated to write a story when the act is severe enough?

If ENS commented on this story, and stated that they have no paid staff, and that they are all busy volunteers who were away for the holidays, would you still assert that they had failed and were really just trying to protect the church?

Thank you–

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