From Publishers Weekly
Back in the 1960s when James Pike was Episcopal bishop of California, nearly everyone had an opinion about the attention-seeking clergyman whose unconventional opinions and actions often made headlines. To some he was a prophet, opposing the Vietnam conflict and advocating liberal social issues such as racial equality, women's ordination, the acceptance of homosexuals in church life and legalized abortion. To others he was a heretic, dismissing as "excess baggage" classic Christian dogmas such as the virgin birth and the Trinity. Robertson, author of two other biographies and a historical novel, portrays a brilliant but troubled man whose personal life disintegrated as he poured his energies into his work. An adult convert to the Episcopal Church, Pike was ordained at 31, became dean of New York's Episcopal cathedral before turning 40 and was elected bishop of California at 45. As he rose to national prominence, however, he was divorced twice, his elder son and one of his mistresses committed suicide and his drinking veered out of control. Repeatedly accused—but never convicted—of heresy, Bishop Pike announced his departure from the Episcopal Church several months before his accidental death in the wilderness near the Dead Sea. Robertson's account, at once sympathetic and probing, provides a fascinating and timely backdrop to many of the struggles faced by mainline Protestant churches today.
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Very much a man of his time--the mid-twentieth century--Bishop James A. Pike was a controversial figure who was called spiritualist, heretic, pariah, and other names. If nothing else, he was definitely an iconoclast. Raised Catholic, he later converted to Episcopalianism and in 1952 was appointed dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. His liberal sermons and unconventional opinions raised many eyebrows, and by the late 1950s, his views had turned considerably more radical. He publicly rejected the Virgin Birth and the Incarnation; questioned basic church doctrine; and, consequently, was accused of heresy. Unconventional regarding social mores, too, he spoke out for civil rights and against antiabortion laws, capital punishment, and the Vietnam War. Meanwhile, his personal life was messy, including three marriages and struggles with alcoholism. He resigned his bishopric in 1966 and died in rather mysterious circumstances in the Israeli desert, while on a trip there with his young, new wife. Robertson brings Pike to life in a complex, sympathetic, ultimately moving biography. June SawyersCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved