Episcopal Church leaders meeting in Linthicum on Friday said they are awaiting details of a police investigation into the fatal accident involving Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook, in which a prominent Baltimore cyclist was killed.
Thomas Palermo, who was cycling in North Roland Park on the afternoon of Dec. 27, died after being struck by a vehicle. The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland identified Cook as the driver. The Baltimore state's attorney's office announced Friday to charge Cook with manslaughter.
Cook was elected last year Bishop Suffragan, the No. 2 position in the Maryland diocese.
Neva Rae Fox, a spokeswoman for the national leadership, said church officials will look at the process used for vetting candidates for bishop positions, but that the church is still waiting to learn information about the incident involving Cook.
"There is a process that guided the search committee. Everything is being looked at right now. We have no answers yet," she said.
Fox said that church is continuing its own investigation of which the details will remain confidential until it is complete. She said it is unclear when the investigation will conclude.
A church statement said that as "a result of the charges, Cook will not be permitted to exercise her ordained ministry in the foreseeable future," but declined to comment further on the charges.
"Our prayers go out to all involved," said Rev. Dr. Canon Charles Robertson, Canon to the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church during the conference. He said more than 40 elected churches members from around the country as well as others who traveled from abroad.
The conference had been planned for months, Fox said, adding that the Cook incident was not on the agenda.
Local church officials acknowledged Thursday that the 304 delegates who voted in election last May were not told Cook had been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol in 2010. The information was disclosed to a search committee that vetted candidates, church officials said.
Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton, head of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, defended the decision to move Cook forward as a candidate after church officials learned of her DUI charge in 2010. Sutton said Tuesday that the church must practice forgiveness and offer second chances.
Fox said she does not believe the incident will affect the church's overall mission.
"People are realizing this is an incident, not the entire church," she said. She pointed to ongoing positive work done by church, such as providing soup kitchens and cold weather shelters to the needy.
"It's business as usual, the work continues" she said.