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Letter from President Jennings on the death of Tom Palermo

Headshot of The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies

Letter from President Jennings on the death of Tom Palermo

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies, has written a letter addressed to deputies and alternate deputies about different actions the Church has decided to take following Tom Palermo’s death.

The letter is reprinted below, from the House of Deputies website:

A Letter from President Jennings: The Death of Thomas Palermo
February 9, 2015

Dear Deputies and Alternate Deputies:

Like many of you, I was deeply saddened by the news that bicyclist Thomas Palermo had died on December 27 after he was struck by a car driven by Bishop Heather Cook of the Diocese of Maryland. Mr. Palermo’s wife, Rachel, his children, Sadie and Sam, and his family are in my prayers every day. As a parent who has lost a child, I also grieve for Mr. Palermo’s parents, who survive him. I hope that you will consider a donation to theeducational trust fund that has been established for his children.

In the weeks since Mr. Palermo was killed, many people in the church have struggled to understand better how our systemic denial about alcohol and other drug abuse in the church may have contributed to Bishop Cook’s election and confirmation as a bishop even as she seemed to be struggling with addiction. Many Episcopalians are asking what people in positions of authority in the church knew about her history of addiction and driving while under the influence of alcohol. They are also asking why the electors in Maryland and the bishops and standing committees who consented to her election were not made aware of this information, some of which is a matter of public record.

Bishop Cook has been indicted on 13 counts including vehicular homicide and the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Maryland has asked her to resign as bishop suffragan. There is also a Title IV investigation underway, and I hope there will be an open reporting of its results that will answer many of these questions.

However, the ongoing Title IV investigation does not relieve those of us who help lead the church of our obligation to acknowledge that the credibility of the process by which we elect bishops is in question. Long before this crisis, many people in the church understood that the process no longer serves us well in some instances. I have served as consultant to six bishop search committees, and I concur. The seeming failure of the process in Maryland lends new urgency to the discussion.

Resolution A002 from The Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church asks General Convention to authorize a task force to recommend a new process for selecting bishops to General Convention in 2018, and it is very likely that other resolutions that address the need for transparency and accountability in bishop searches and elections will come before convention as well.

In addition, I have decided to appoint a House of Deputies special legislative committee on alcohol and other drug abuse to review the General Convention’s 1985 policy on alcohol and drug abuse (Resolution A083) as well as propose and receive resolutions on this and related topics. I believe firmly that people who experience addiction can be called by God to lead our church. I have been blessed by the leadership and pastoral gifts of my own bishop, Mark Hollingsworth, who, since before being named a nominee for bishop, has spoken and written openly and powerfully to us about his many years as a recovering alcoholic. I also know that the church can sometimes confuse secrecy and confidentiality, and that our desire for reconciliation can sometimes make us reluctant to confront one another in love. I hope that we can examine our church’s relationship to alcohol and other drugs in a clear-eyed and forthright way, mindful of the systemic issues that can constrain transparency.

These are the measures I can take to help our church repent for our role in Thomas Palermo’s death. I ask each of you to remember that all of us bear responsibility for ensuring that we elect our leaders honestly and transparently. Even until the very last moment, we all bear responsibility for coming forward when we believe that the process has failed us; in fact, in the liturgy of ordination for a bishop, the Presiding Bishop says, “You have been assured of her suitability and that the Church has approved her for this sacred responsibility. Nevertheless, if any of you know any reason why we should not proceed, let it now be made known.” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 514).

Please join me in praying for our church, for Heather Cook, for the Dioceses of Maryland and Easton, and most especially for the family and friends of Thomas Palermo.

Faithfully,

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings
President, House of Deputies

 

Posted by David Streever

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John Chilton

For further comment on the beer tasting see our item of January 31:

https://www.episcopalcafe.com/beer-tasting-to-be-prize-for-episcopal-relief-fundraiser/

This is how the event has been repackaged:

http://houseofdeputies.org/campaign-raises-32-of-goal-in-first-month.html

“I’m grateful to Bill for his commitment to Episcopal Relief & Development and our campaign, and for donating such a generous prize,” said Jennings. “I’ve heard from deputies who want to win it for their deputations. I’ve also heard directly from two deputies, one from the Diocese of Maryland and one from the Diocese of Easton, who expressed concern about an event focused on beer tasting. In response to their concerns and in keeping with General Convention’s 1985 Resolution A083, “Adopt Church Policy on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, we’ll call the prize ‘An Evening with Bill Miller.’ I want to assure deputies that the Beerhive is an established, well-regarded Salt Lake City restaurant and pub with a full food menu and range of non-alcoholic beverages, so deputies who are in recovery, are underage, or who simply don’t enjoy beer will be able to participate fully and enjoy the evening along with those who want to taste craft beers.”

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Helen Kromm

Jennings is even more tone deaf and clueless than I might have imagined. She comes to us with these soothing words, and yet recent actions reveal the level of her hypocrisy.

A bit more than a week after Heather Cook killed Tom Palermo, and as an incentive for whatever delegation raises the most money for Episcopal Relief, a prize of a beer tasting would be offered at the General Convention.

http://houseofdeputies.org/campaign-for-episcopal-relief-development-kicks-off.html

And from that link:

"Just to sweeten the pot, here is an incentive: Deputy William Miller of the Diocese of Hawaii, author of The Beer Drinker's Guide to God,” will host a beer tasting at the Beer Hive Pub in Salt Lake City during General Convention for the deputation that raises the most money in the campaign. The winning deputation will be announced during the first legislative day of the House of Deputies at General Convention."

This of course, presented some prickly problems and issues. Not the least of which, and on the surface, it would appear to violate at least one provision of the "1985 Resolution A083, “Adopt Church Policy on Alcohol and Drug Abuse".

That provision being, and copied from that resolution:

"The service of alcoholic beverages at church events should not be publicized as an attraction of the event."

That's pretty clear you would think...

So what solution does Jennings propose and announce to address this quandary? You would think the logical solution would be to cancel the event. After all, your raging, alcoholic Bishop just slaughtered a man on the streets of Baltimore. So maybe, just maybe, this is an event that isn't prudent at the general convention.

But this isn't the solution Jennings comes up with. Far from it. The creative solution to this particular problem is to simply rename the event. Don't change it. Don't cancel it. Just call it something different.

http://houseofdeputies.org/campaign-raises-32-of-goal-in-first-month.html

And from that link:

“I’m grateful to Bill for his commitment to Episcopal Relief & Development and our campaign, and for donating such a generous prize,” said Jennings. “I’ve heard from deputies who want to win it for their deputations. I’ve also heard directly from two deputies, one from the Diocese of Maryland and one from the Diocese of Easton, who expressed concern about an event focused on beer tasting. In response to their concerns and in keeping with General Convention’s 1985 Resolution A083, “Adopt Church Policy on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, we’ll call the prize ‘An Evening with Bill Miller.’"

You simply can't make this stuff up...

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Jennifer Caldwell

OMG.

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Brad Carter

Many of these postings convince me that our beloved Church is on its way to becoming a version of the Harper Valley PTA. I thought Episcopalians stood for an agape-inspired community of forgiving people. Many of these messages seem very holier-than-thou. Reading these posts help me understand why my secular friends so often see Christians as cold, hard, and very mean.

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Marc A Cooper

I couldn't disagree more. I worry reading all this that this communion has become all about allowing all sorts of evil to be perpetrated without calling it out so as not to rock the boat, don't ask-don't-tell, it's up to God to sort it out, and the like.

Bad things are done by people. Yes, even Christian people. Our role ought to be to condemn the bad behavior without condemning the person.

Is there anything that we shouldn't strive to forgive? Probably not.

But are there things we have a moral obligation not to abide? Absolutely.

It's really not ambiguous to me. Forgiveness comes after a clear delineation of poor behavior -- sin, ultimately.

What Ms. Cook did, and the way she continues to conduct herself, is shameful.

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Nick Porter

Well said,Marc!

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Nick Porter

Forgiveness can't come without confession. And even with forgiveness, it doesn't mean consequences go out the door.

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Nick Porter

Thank you for pointing out the difference, Dcn.Philip, but the way people are using the term forgiveness on this thread and others does seem to be as if they really mean reconciliation.

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Philip Snyder

Actually, Nick, forgiveness often comes without confession. I forgave my dead mother for things she did when I was a child when there was no chance of her confession. All that forgiveness requires is the decision to forgive and to not let the past control you. Your forgiveness is not dependent on the other's repentance.

However, to have Reconciliation, you do need strong evidence of repentance. I can forgive Heather Cook for her offenses against me and against the Church. However, I cannot reconcile with her until I see evidence of her repentance.

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Nick Porter

"May have erred"

I believe enough information has passed where you could scratch out the word "may". Are you one of her supporters?

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Harry M. Merryman

Yes. And we know for a fact, don't we, that she is unrepentant. (I'll accept the morally and theologically debatable premise here.) Or that others who *may* have erred in the process of her election are, as well. That is why we needn't bother even to *offer* forgiveness contingently (or charity or compassion, for that matter). I marvel at your certainty; it is truly breathtaking!

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Marc A Cooper

There but for the Grace of God; indeed, I think about that every time I get on my bike.

If you mean Ms. Cook; then let's play that out. It is indeed possible, though I have worked very hard indeed to minimize the chances. I don't drive drunk, I respect cyclists (being one) and I've never had that many drinks in such a short time. I've certainly never left someone to die. That said, if I did, I would expect to be terminated, and a position of moral authority to guide others in their behavior to be removed. I don't think that's either vindictive or hateful, but if you wish to judge me, you wouldn't be the first.

I have read on another thread that she has in fact had her powers removed. I believe that is right.

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Gianluigi Gugliermetto

"I also know that the church can sometimes confuse secrecy and confidentiality, and that our desire for reconciliation can sometimes make us reluctant to confront one another in love"
I don't find those words clear enough. The writer should be talking about a FALSE desire for reconciliation, or a desire for a FALSE reconciliation, which indeed permeates ecclesiastical circles.

"I believe firmly that people who experience addiction can be called by God to lead our church". Wouldn't it be better to say that the Church can, of course, be led by people who are in STABLE AND PROVEN recovery from all sort of addictions (as the example given shows)?

In general, I find it dismaying that in the past few weeks nobody has taken much responsibility, as if this were solely Bishop Cook's fault and nobody else's. Some people were not informed about Cook's conditions, but some were, and I have not seen them standing on the same side with Cook as her partners in sin, i.e. untrue and damaging behaviors.

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