Maryland Bishop Charged in DUI Death Defrocked by Episcopal Church

By Eckstrom, Kevin | The Christian Century, May 27, 2015 | Go to article overview

Maryland Bishop Charged in DUI Death Defrocked by Episcopal Church


Eckstrom, Kevin, The Christian Century


An Episcopal bishop in Maryland who is facing manslaughter charges in the drunk-driving death of a bicyclist has been defrocked and "will no longer function as an ordained person in the Episcopal Church."

Heather Cook was a suffragan (assistant) bishop in the Diocese of Maryland when she was charged with manslaughter in the December 27 hit-and-run death of cyclist Tom Palermo, a 41-year-old husband and father of two, in Baltimore. Within a month of the accident, the diocese that she had helped lead for just three months asked her to resign.

Cook, who is free on bail and seeking treatment for alcoholism, faces 13 charges including drunken driving, leaving the scene of an accident, and causing an accident due to texting while driving.

Cook left the crash scene and returned about 30 minutes later, according to court documents. A breath test showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.22, almost three times Maryland's 0.08 limit.

On May 1, Episcopal Church headquarters in New York issued a brief statement saying that Cook had reached a mutual "accord" with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori that will leave her "deposed," or stripped of her ordination as a priest and bishop. The statement said the punishment takes effect "immediately."

In February, Jefferts Schori had suspended Cook from the ministry, directing her not to present herself "as an ordained person of this Church in good standing." Her diocese also asked her to resign.

Also on May 1, the Baltimore-based diocese said it had accepted Cook's resignation, independent of her agreement with the national church. "This means that Cook is no longer employed by the diocese," the brief statement from Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton and lay leaders said. …

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