Heather Cook, Top Female Bishop in Maryland’s Episcopal Church Ousted After Hit and Run Accident

Bicyclist Killed in DUI

December 27, Baltimore saw the death of a bicyclist and father, Thomas Palermo. The prime suspect is Heather Cook, the top female Episcopal Bishop in Maryland’s Episcopal Church, who was defrocked by the church.

It was certainly a process as they handled the situation. According to Cook’s lawyer, David Irwin, she is living at a treatment center for alcohol problems. January 9, many charges were brought against her. These charges are listed in the indictment and include four criminal offenses and four traffic violations. She pleaded not guilty of all charges on April 2 at the arraignment. She has been given a trial date of June 4 and is out on a $2.5M bail.

The Episcopal Church

The church had her placed on leave right after the accident. In February, she was severely restricted in her ministry. The Office of the Presiding Bishop said that, “Pursuant to Title IV of the Canons of The Episcopal Church, the Presiding Bishop and Bishop Cook have reached an Accord. Under the terms of the Accord, Bishop Cook will receive a Sentence of Deposition, pursuant to which she shall be ‘deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority of God’s word and sacraments conferred at ordination. As such, Cook will no longer function as an ordained person in the Episcopal Church. The Accord resolves all ecclesiastical disciplinary matters involving Cook. This Accord is separate from any resolution of employment matters involving Cook and the Diocese of Maryland as well as from criminal matters pending in the secular courts.” This announcement was made Friday, and was quickly followed by her resignation.

Bishop Eugene Sutton is the diocese leader, and he requested she resign in January. Thousands of Episcopalians were calling for her to quit and step down from her position.  David Irwin has acknowledged that she took part in the accident with Palermo, adding that “we continue to express our deepest sympathy and regret to the Palermo family for their tragic loss.” His death, and Cook’s consequent arrest, sparked a much needed discussion among Episcopalians about their leadership selection proceedings, drinking and addiction. It was revealed that Cook has divulged her problems with drinking and past arrest in 2010 to the smaller committee that selected her as an option. Rather than sharing that information with the larger convention, Daniel Webster, Sutton’s spokesman, say that it was her responsibility to tell them. He added that it was also Jefferts Schori’s responsibility.


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