James Pike

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James Albert Pike
Bishop of California
James a pike.jpg
James A. Pike in 1966
ChurchEpiscopal Church in the United States of America
SeeCalifornia
In office1958–66
PredecessorBishop Karl Morgan Block
SuccessorBishop Kilmer Meyers
Orders
Ordination1946
Consecration1958
Personal details
Birth nameJames Albert Pike
Born(1913-02-14)February 14, 1913
Oklahoma City, OK
DiedSeptember 9, 1969(1969-09-09) (aged 56)
Wadi Duraja, Israel
 
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For other uses, see James Pike (disambiguation).
James Albert Pike
Bishop of California
James a pike.jpg
James A. Pike in 1966
ChurchEpiscopal Church in the United States of America
SeeCalifornia
In office1958–66
PredecessorBishop Karl Morgan Block
SuccessorBishop Kilmer Meyers
Orders
Ordination1946
Consecration1958
Personal details
Birth nameJames Albert Pike
Born(1913-02-14)February 14, 1913
Oklahoma City, OK
DiedSeptember 9, 1969(1969-09-09) (aged 56)
Wadi Duraja, Israel

James Albert Pike (February 14, 1913 – September 1969) was an American Episcopal bishop, prolific writer, and one of the first mainline religious figures to appear regularly on television.

His outspoken and, to some, heretical views on many theological and social issues made him one of the most controversial public figures of his time. He was an early proponent of ordination of women, racial desegregation, and the acceptance of LGBT people within mainline churches. Pike was the fifth Bishop of California. Late in his life he explored psychic experimentation in an effort to contact his recently deceased son.

Early life[edit]

Pike was born in Oklahoma City on February 14, 1913. His father died when he was two, and his mother married California attorney Claude McFadden. The young Pike was a Roman Catholic and considered the priesthood; but, while attending the University of Santa Clara, he came to consider himself an agnostic. Pike earned a doctorate from Yale Law School and married Jane Alvies. He served as an attorney in Washington, D.C., for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) during Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal era and taught Law at George Washington University. After his first marriage ended in divorce (later annulled), Pike married Esther Yanovsky. In World War II, he served with Naval Intelligence.

Conversion and early church life[edit]

After World War II, Pike and his wife joined the Episcopal Church. He entered, first, the Virginia Theological Seminary and, then, the Union Theological seminary and began to prepare for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1946, first serving as an assistant at St. John's, Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., and then as Rector of Christ Church in Poughkeepsie, New York. He next became head of the Department of Religion and chaplain at Columbia University. He left Columbia in 1952 to become the Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York. Using his new position and media savvy, he picked a fight with local Catholic bishops over their attacks on Planned Parenthood and their opposition to birth control. He accepted an invitation to receive an honorary doctorate from Sewanee: The University of the South in Tennessee but then publicly declined after finding that the university did not admit African Americans. An example of Pike's use of the media is that he released his letter to the New York Times before it was delivered to Sewanee's trustees: they heard the news when reporters called for reactions.[1] It was also at this time that he publicly challenged Senator Joseph McCarthy's allegation that 7,000 U.S. pastors were part of a Kremlin conspiracy; and, when the newly elected President Dwight D. Eisenhower backed up Pike, McCarthy and his movement began to lose their influence.[2]

In New York, Pike reached a large audience with liberal sermons and weekly television programs. Common topics included birth control, abortion laws, racism, capital punishment, apartheid, antisemitism, and farm worker exploitation.[3]

Election as bishop[edit]

He was elected as bishop coadjutor of California in 1958 and succeeded to the See a few months later, following the death of his predecessor, Karl Morgan Block. In this position, he served until 1966, when he abdicated. At that point, he began to work for the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, a liberal, private-sector think tank.

Pike with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at a press conference after the march to Selma, Alabama.

His episcopate was marked by both professional and personal controversy. He was one of the leaders of the Protestants and Other Americans United for the Separation of Church and State movement, which advocated against John Kennedy's presidential campaign because of Catholic teachings.[4] While at Grace Cathedral, he was involved with promoting a living wage for workers in San Francisco, the acceptance of LGBT people in the church, and civil rights. He also recognized a Methodist minister as having dual ordination and freedom to serve in the diocese. Later, he ordained a woman as a first-order deacon, now known as a "transitional deacon", usually the first step in the process towards ordination in the priesthood in the Episcopal church. The ordination was not approved until after Pike's death.[5]

Among his notable accomplishments, Pike met with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during his march to Selma, Alabama.

Pike's theology was profoundly challenging to the Church, involving the rejection of central Christian beliefs. His writings questioned a number of widely regarded theological stances, including the virginity of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the doctrine of Hell, and the Trinity. He famously called for "fewer beliefs, more belief."[5] Heresy procedures were begun in 1962, 1964, 1965, and 1966, each growing in intensity; but, in the end, the Church decided it was not in the denomination's best interest to pursue an actual heresy trial.[1]

In his personal life, Pike was a chain-smoker and an alcoholic. His charismatic personality drew many people to him, including his secretary Maren Hackett, with whom he developed a romantic relationship that cost him his second marriage in 1969.

The Other Side[edit]

In 1966, Pike's son Jim took his own life in a New York city hotel room. Shortly after his son's death, Pike reported experiencing poltergeist phenomena—books vanishing and reappearing, safety pins open and indicating the approximate hour of his son's death, half the clothes in a closet disarranged and heaped up.[6] Pike led a public pursuit of various spiritualist and clairvoyant methods of contacting his deceased son to reconcile. In September 1967, Pike participated in a televised séance with his dead son through the medium Arthur Ford, who served at the time as a Disciples of Christ minister. Pike detailed these experiences in his book The Other Side.

Death[edit]

In September 1969, Pike and his third wife Diane drove into the Judean Desert, searching for proof of the historical Jesus. With typical Pike bravado, they were unprepared for the journey; and, when their car broke down and became stuck, Diane Pike told her husband to stay in the shade of the car to protect himself from the heat of the desert sun, and not to go anywhere. Diane walked down a wadi to a grocery to seek help. The men there asked where she'd come from. She pointed to the wadi; they said "That's impossible. No one can do that." Help was obtained, but by the time they arrived back at the car, they found that James had wandered off. Later his body was recovered. This account came directly from Diane Kennedy Pike's verbal account to a group she and her partner Oso Lorrance were leading to Egypt, Jordan and Israel in 1975.[7] Following his wishes and those of his family, Pike was buried in the Protestant cemetery in Jaffa, Israel.[8]

In literature[edit]

Major works[edit]

Biographies[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Maudlin, Michael G. "Books & Culture's Book of the Week: Be Careful What You Pray For". Christianity Today. Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  2. ^ Robertson, David M (2004). A Passionate Pilgrim: A Biography of Bishop James A. Pike. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-375-41187-9. OCLC 53360781. 
  3. ^ Lampen, Michael. "Bishop James Pike: Visionary or Heretic?". Tales from the Crypt. Grace Cathedral. Retrieved 2007-03-20. 
  4. ^ Woodward (Dec 5, 2007), "Mitt Romney is no Jack Kennedy", The New York Times .
  5. ^ a b Pike, James A (1967). If This Be Heresy. New York: Harper and Rowe Publishers. 
  6. ^ Christopher, Milbourne (1970). ESP, Seers & Psychics: What the Occult Really Is. New York: Crowell. ISBN 0-690-26815-7. OCLC 97063. 
  7. ^ "Death in the Wilderness". Time. 1969-09-12. Retrieved 2007-09-20. 
  8. ^ Yudkin, Gila. "Whatever Happened to Bishop Pike". Pilgrimage Panorama with Gila, Your Holy Land Guide. Gila Yudkin. Retrieved 2007-03-20. 
  9. ^ "The author with Bishop Pike". Philip K. Dick Trust. Retrieved 2007-03-20. 

External links[edit]