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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Epic Failure of Episcopal Church To Hold Drunken Bishop Accountable

Tom Palermo is the man Bishop Cook--DUI, about 12 drinks, and texting--struck
and left to die in the street. She hid out in her gated community for 45 minutes,
before being forced to return to the scene.

I lost two young church members to drunk drivers. They would now be Tom Palermo's age and perhaps have children, too. Drunk drivers - that is very personal for me.


Pastor Calls Bishop Heather Cook's Fatal DUI Incident 'Epic Failure' of Episcopal Church to Hold Her Accountable


The recent fatal DUI incident involving disgraced Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Maryland, Heather Cook, who's now stewing in jail as a result of criminal charges filed against her last Friday, is an "epic failure" of the Episcopal Church says Rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Brunswick, Maryland, Rev. Anjel Scarborough.
In an open letter to her congregants posted to her church's website last Friday, Scarborough explained that while the church doesn't appear to have breached any guidelines in the process of promoting Cook to the second highest-ranking position in the diocese last spring — even after she revealed she had been charged with a nasty DUI in 2010 — how Cook's addiction was allowed to fester to the point of causing a death while still serving in the church was an "epic failure" of the Episcopal church's vetting process.
"In the end, this was an epic failure. It was the failure of a process to stop a candidate for bishop from being put forward when clearly her alcoholism was not in remission," wrote Scarborough.
The rector, who was part of a closed door meeting with Maryland's Diocesan Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton and more than 100 Episcopal clergy that discussed Cook's troubles at the Claggett Center in Buckeystown, Maryland, last Tuesday, highlighted several details of the process that led to Cook's appointment.
She noted that while they were told that Cook revealed her 2010 DUI to Sutton and the search committee it was not clear how much detail she revealed about the arrest.
"As per the national church's guidelines, all of the bishop candidates were referred to a psychiatrist for evaluation. Heather was deemed fit to continue in the process. Exact details of what she discussed with the psychiatrist are protected under HIPAA laws," she noted.
"The search committee and standing committee were told 'a candidate has a DUI in their past' and both committees were asked if this would disqualify the candidate. No other details of Heather's arrest were disclosed, such as how long ago it happened (four years ago), what her blood alcohol content was at the time of arrest (the breathalyzer registered .27 — indicating severe intoxication), and the presence of drug paraphernalia and marijuana in the car (a charge which was dropped). This was in keeping with the national guidelines on handling sensitive information in a search process," she noted.
At 250 pounds, she had 12 or more drinks to blow a .27 blood alcohol level in 2010.
And she was smoking marijuana.
But they hide behind HIPPA laws?


Scarborough further explained that while church rules did not call for Cook to disclose her past troubles with the law to the general convention that voted to elevate her last spring, she was advised to disclose her past to delegates at the individual level and she chose not to do so, choosing instead to leave the delegates in the dark. This decision eventually led to the death of 41-year-old married father of two, Thomas Palermo.
"I do believe we need to better address the problems of clergy or candidates for ordination whose alcoholism is active and who are acting out in ways which damage themselves and others. I pray we can begin to address this in the wake of Tom's tragic death," she said.
"It was a failure of Heather's to choose not to treat her alcoholism and conceal her past. This resulted in the death of a husband and father — something which Heather will have to live with for the rest of her life and for which she may be incarcerated," Scarborough continued.
"This was our failure of Heather too. As the Church, we set her up to fail by confusing forgiveness with accountability. We did not hold her accountable to a program of sobriety and we failed to ask the tough love questions which needed to be asked. In so doing, we offered cheap grace — and that is enabling," she added.
Cook was charged with multiple crimes last Friday, including driving under the influence, causing an accident due to texting while driving, and leaving the scene of the crash that took the life of Thomas Palermo in the Dec. 27 incident. She faces more than 20 years in prison and some $20,000 in fines if she's convicted.
The bishop turned herself in to police last Friday and has been stuck in jail since Dec. 27 because she cannot afford to pay the $2.5 million bail penalty required by the court in full, and a judge refused on Monday to lower the amount. Her attorney, Jose A. Molina, said she's "suffering a great deal right now."

Bishop Heather Cook, mugshot and Photoshop.
Suffragen (Assistant) Bishop of the Maryland Diocese.



The Right Rev. Heather E. Cook


Bishop Cook is on administrative leave pending Episcopal Church investigation and resolution of criminal charges

Bishop Suffragan-elect Heather E. Cook
Heather Elizabeth Cook was born in Syracuse, NY, the third of six children in a clergy family. When she was 18 months old, the family moved to Maryland when her father was called to serve on Bishop Harry Lee Doll’s staff in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. When he became rector of Old St. Paul’s, Baltimore, they moved downtown into the rectory, a notable witness while Baltimore was undergoing urban renewal. On weekdays, the kids travelled to Brooklandville to attend the St. Paul’s Schools, and her mother taught religious studies at St. Timothy’s School.
The themes of her childhood were this inner city experience, balanced by barefoot summers in the Canadian Thousand Islands, where they had a tiny house; litters of golden retriever puppies; and her father reading the Chronicles of Narnia aloud before bedtime. These shaped her, and remain important to this day.
Cook loved school, and participated in sports and extra-curricular activities enthusiastically. One of the profound learnings of her young life came when she was not elected president of the student council, which she coveted. Instead, she was chosen to edit the yearbook. Looking back, this was part of a consistent life theme: being placed, over and over again, in situations where a dedicated communicator was needed. Whether through public speaking, print, film, or graphic art, opportunities came to convey her passion for deeply held values and beliefs.
Curiosity about the world prompted her to pursue university studies in 1974 at Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada, and later at the University of Exeter, England, and work as an au pair in Spain, on a kibbutz in Israel, and as a grape- picker in France and vegetable-harvester in England.
Back in Baltimore, working as a redactor at Waverly Press, she was re-introduced to faith as a young adult and discerned there was something else calling her. She realized she needed to find her own identity as a young woman, and not wait for it to come through marriage. This, coupled with a spiritual awakening that was encouraged through Education for Ministry classes at Epiphany Church, Timonium, and an introduction to contemplative life through silent retreats, opened the way for her to hear God’s invitation to seminary.
At first she was uncertain about being a priest, having experienced the ups and downs of clergy family life. But she was faithful to this call, and earned a Master of Divinity degree from the General Theological Seminary in New York City in 1987.
On the day she was ordained, at last it felt right. Bishop Theodore Eastman ordained her to the diaconate on June 20, 1987, at the Cathedral Church of the Incarnation, Baltimore, and her father vested her for this office, removing the stole from around his own neck and placing it over hers.
Since ordination to the priesthood on April 30, 1988, she has served as a boarding school chaplain at Stuart Hall in Staunton, Virginia; assistant rector at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Bedford, New York; rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, York, Pennsylvania; canon for mission in the Diocese of Central New York; and canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Easton on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. These varied ministries taught much and broadened and matured her perspective of the fullness of the Church.
On May 2, 2014, Cook was elected as bishop suffragan for the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. She serves as the first woman bishop in the diocese, succeeding the Right Rev. John L. Rabb who retired in 2010, and the Right Rev. Joe Goodwin Burnett, who served as assistant bishop 2010-2013.
Through the ups and downs of ministry, Cook remains convinced that the Spirit equips Christians with all they need to make the Good News known in our time. “I’m unconvinced by the naysayers who say the day of the Church is over,”Cook said. “I believe a new Church is just beginning, and feel called to help lead in the discovery.”

A statement from the Bishop Suffragan-elect regarding recent events in Ferguson, Missouri
August 20, 2014
Our nation has been gripped by the events in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death by a police officer of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, on August 9. The shooting, and the violence that has ensued, are the inevitable consequences when people regard each other with fear and mistrust, and see only labels that define differences, rather than see the human person made in the image and likeness of God. Sadly, there are far too many of these occurrences in our own country and in the world today. Read the entire statement.