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Episcopal Diocese Announces New Bishop After Cook Ousted

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland reaches out to a bishop who is also a recovering alcoholic to lead the church, replacing the bishop accused of a fatal drunk driving accident.

Rick Ritter has more on the new church leader and her role.

It's a move that's surprising to some. The new bishop has her own battle against addiction, but says if anyone is meant for this job at this time specifically, it's certainly her.

Reverend Chilton Knudsen is a respected author and recovering alcoholic. She is also the new assistant bishop at the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland; the chosen one to replace Heather Cook, who resigned just days ago.

"We're now in a position where we're able to move forward," said Dan Webster, Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.

It's a bold selection to some, given the troubles alcohol gave Cook, which ultimately led to her resignation.

Cook's accused of driving drunk along Roland Avenue last year, killing cyclist and father of two Tom Palermo.

Investigators say Cook's blood alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit and she was texting and driving.

A former bishop of Maine, Knudsen is a highly touted author and counselor in the field of addiction recovery, turning struggles similar to Cook's into an inspiration.

"In all humility, I think I am the right person for this given my experience and my many areas of what I think are relevant expertise," said Knudsen.

Knudsen believes more people in the dioceses will now come forward with their own issues--part of the reason why she was selected.

"I have always found that to be the case--not only their struggles with addiction, but lots of other different struggles as well," Knudsen said.

As the community continues to try and cope with the heart-wrenching loss of Tom Palermo, Knudsen is confident the church will overcome what's been a grueling six months.

Knudsen will serve until a permanent replacement for Cook is named.

The diocese released a statement, saying Knudsen is a well known through the church as a leader in addiction and recovery and will help them learn more about the issue.

"It is with great pleasure that I have announced, with the concurrence of the standing committee, the appointment of the Right Rev. Chilton R. Knudsen as assistant bishop in the Diocese of Maryland.

"Bishop Knudsen is well known throughout the Episcopal Church as a leader and an expert in addiction and recovery with clergy and congregations. Her depth of knowledge and experience will benefit the Diocese of Maryland as we continue to learn more about this issue. Our plan and prayer is to be the mission focused diocese we aspire to be and Bishop Knudsen brings gifts that will help us."

Knudsen was top bishop in the diocese of Maine from 1997 to 2008.

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