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Friday, February 13, 2015

Virtue Online - Asking the Wrong Questions of Bishop Heather Cook

Texting while drunk driving = killing the father of two young children -
Heather Cook was probably consecrated under the influence.
She could not even hold it together for the celebratory dinner beforehand.


Why the Episcopal Church got it Wrong on the Selection of Bishop Cook
No biblical mindset to ask the right questions
Committee's refusal to ask hard questions
COMMENTARY
By David W. Virtue DD
www.virtueonline.org
February 13, 2015

A bicyclist is dead. The bishop who caused his death, Heather Cook, has been inhibited by the Church's Presiding Bishop. Now the Episcopal Church plans to take a hard look at alcohol as though that were the besetting issue.

It is not. The issues are far deeper than booze and what Cook should have told the committee investigating her case, but did not.

In 2010, Heather Cook was caught behind the wheel with a blood alcohol level of .27 -- more than three times the legal limit in Maryland -- and pleaded guilty. There was pot paraphernalia in the car as well.
This has prompted clergy and laypeople alike to reread church policy on alcohol and the consecration of bishops, and to ask how addiction is handled. Is the church in any way culpable in the death of cyclist Thomas Palermo, a 41-year-old husband and father of two?

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, one of two main governing bodies of the 2 million-member denomination, said many Episcopalians are asking why church leaders allowed Heather Cook to be confirmed as bishop last September, despite their knowledge of her struggle with alcohol.
"Sometimes a tragedy happens and people move on after a couple of weeks," Jennings observed. "This particular tragedy has caused many people to not only look at the issue of alcoholism and other drug addictions, but also how we select and elect our leaders, our bishops."

Jennings is appointing a committee to review the church's 1985 policies on alcohol and drug abuse and to propose new resolutions to be considered at the church's General Convention in Salt Lake City from June 25 to July 3.

Jennings is at least asking the right question...how do we select our leaders and bishops.
First of all, you have to have a Biblical mindset and consult Scripture on what the basic credentials are for being a bishop.

1 Tim. 3 reads thusly, "The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. 2 Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way-- 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God's church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil."

[GJ gloss - No - the KJV is far better -

This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
Translations are faddish, too.]

On about half the qualifications outlined above, Heather Cook did not qualify. Her life was not above reproach, she is not married, has an ambiguous relationship with a man (the one who bailed her out) who happens to be divorced and was inhibited from ministry in the Episcopal Church by the former Bishop of Connecticut. Is it sexual? No one will say. She was able to manage a household of one (she has no known children), apparently with the help of alcohol. Apt teacher, who are we kidding?

On virtually every Scriptural scale, Cook failed. So how did she slip through the cracks when clearly there were better qualified persons?

First, Scripture is no longer authoritative in the Episcopal Church; therefore appealing to it is deemed irrelevant, if not an abstraction.

Second, most Suffragan Search Committees don't consult scripture to ask the right questions. They are made up of men and women who have not had Scripture explained to them from the pulpits in years, if ever. Sermons on social justice, inclusivity, and diversity will not provide them with the Scriptural foundation to quiz bishop candidates.

Third, the walkabouts are basically political and issue oriented. Committees are pushed to be politically correct, "Do we need a woman, perhaps someone who is gay?" No one asks what the Bible says to qualify one as bishop.

Fourth, how does a candidate come across? Do they exude niceness, charm, and will they "fit in?" Nobody too extreme, please. Make sure they endorse the Church's hot button sexuality issues. There is no room for fudge here.

Fifth, based on the above, no orthodox candidate would be eligible for being a bishop in TEC.
Sixth, the slippery slope of theological ambiguity leads to moral ambiguity and therefore leads to an almost anything goes attitude based on a false, misplaced compassion. So with the dumbing down qualifications for bishop, you end up with poor white trash like Cook whose boozing habits were clearly known and ignored because "compassion" dictated that the committee overlook her past failings.

"This is a matter of moral character and there seems to be a serious ethical failure in this instance. I was shocked to learn she (Bishop Heather Cook) was charged in 2010 with DUI and possession of pot. Could someone tell me who the hell there was on this one?" enquired the Rev. John Farrell.
I hope we have answered your question Mr. Farrell. If you have no standards except secular ones, you get exactly what the Diocese of Maryland got.

Episcopalians playfully -- and others sometimes not so playfully -- call themselves "Whiskeypalians." And they joke: "Wherever two or three are gathered, there's usually a fifth" (of alcohol). That's not a joke anymore.

"Obviously there's a flaw, there are flaws in there," said Episcopal Maryland Bishop Eugene Sutton. Really.
If a diocese like Los Angeles can elect an openly non-celibate lesbian as bishop, why shouldn't it excuse a serious drinker like Heather Cook?

When I worked for the Diocese of Virginia under Bishop Robert Hall, I quickly learned he was a first rate alcoholic. He could barely get through a service, was propped up by his staff, and stumbled his way through the Prayer Book. Good southern folk would never expose him, he was 'aristocracy' and a good ol boy. He was stage managed till he retired, a bottle of scotch never far from his fingers. He has mercifully died.
The Episcopal Church will go on electing non entities, third rate theological minds (how much theological education did Katharine Jefferts Schori ever have?) and morally flawed men and women, people who demand our compassion because half the committee are doing the 12 steps and don't want to "judge" someone like themselves. Make them bishop and hope they will get over it privately.

For Cook, that never happened. She killed a man. She has now been summarily dismissed from the Church by the Presiding Bishop, faces 13 charges by the state, and could do 20 years in the slammer.
"The church can sometimes confuse secrecy and confidentiality," Jennings wrote to the deputies. "Our desire for reconciliation can sometimes make us reluctant to confront one another in love."

ELCA Bishop Burnside - pickled.

Ex-bishop Burnside - sober - in court.


She has it half right. Cook was not even a viable candidate by ANY standard, especially Biblical.
The deeper truth is that the Episcopal system is to blame through its Standing Committee (and a weak-willed Maryland bishop who managed to forgive himself). The Committee's refusal to ask the hard Biblical questions outlined in First Timothy because they have been uninstructed or deconstructed over years in the pews, is the deepest reason why Cook slipped through the net and why the Church will go on electing the morally conflicted and the spiritually dead.
END

ELCiC qualifications for presiding bishop:
don't tempt me.