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First female Bishop resigns following DUI hit-and-run charge

The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland announced on May 1 that Bishop Heather Cook, 58, would be resigning from her position in the clergy, following a high-profile DUI incident back in December 2014 that resulted in the death of bicyclist Thomas Palermo.

WBAL 11 reports that the Diocese of Maryland sought Cook's resignation in January when she was officially charged with driving under the influence, leaving the scene of an accident, texting while driving, and causing the fatal injuries of Palermo, a 41-year-old Baltimore father of two.

Officials state that Cook initially left the scene of the December 27 accident when she lost control of her Subaru while texting, fatally striking Palermo. She returned to the scene about 30 minutes later, when police officers issued a breathalyzer test.

According to the Huffington Post, the breathalyzer measured Cook's blood alcohol content (BAC) level to be .22% at the time of the incident -- nearly three times the number (.08%) at which drivers are considered to be intoxicated.

The incident came as a disappointment to many members of the church: Cook's father was a beloved priest in the diocese, and Cook herself was the first woman to hold the elected position of bishop.

The Washington Post states that Cook was let out on bail in January and has been keeping a low profile while seeking treatment for her alcohol addiction. She ceased to be employed by the Diocese in February, but it was only this past Friday that her resignation was officially accepted by the church.

Additionally, officials at the New York-based Episcopal Church headquarters have decided to "depose" Cook and strip her of her ordination as priest and bishop. Episcopal law states that any clergy member can be deposed if he or she displays "any criminal act that reflects adversely on the Member of the Clergy's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a minister of the Church."

The Baltimore Episcopal congregation seems pleased at the decision, with many stating that Cook's alcohol abuse was no secret; other clergy members have since noted that they were concerned about her well-being -- especially after a DUI arrest in 2010 -- but did not know how to respectfully urge the elected clergywoman to seek help.

There are reports that the Episcopal Church will reexamine its drug and alcohol policies at a convention later this summer.

The official trial for Cook is set for June 4, when she will be tried in a Maryland court for the 13 charges placed against her.

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