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A Passionate Pilgrim: A Biography of Bishop James A. Pike Kindle Edition

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Length: 304 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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 Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 1301 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (December 18, 2007)
  • Publication Date: December 18, 2007
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,261,360 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on March 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Robertson, a writer new to me but apparently one of some renown whose other books I will be sure to look out for, has written a sobering account of the 196os through a particular prism, the charismatic Episcopal bishop Jim Pike. Pike was a radical theologian and a moving speaker, whose positioning of himself as an effective force for change took him to what were pretty much the limits of free expression within the church through the 1950s and exploded, as did so much else, in the 1960s.

Here in San Francisco he is still remembered, if vaguely, as the man who held press conferences (some of which were televised) at Grace Cathedral at the top of Nob Hill to discuss his latest activities, boycotts, rebellions, hirings and opinions on national and international affairs, not only on matters of religion, for he cast a wider net. He wrote an article, "How My Mind Has Changed," which made public his doubts about the Virgin Birth of Christ and about the three-personed nature of the Trinity. He called for a stop to the practice of "speaking in tongues." More traditional Christians grew skeptical, then became resolutely opposed to his liberal ways. His heavy drinking and his affairs with women caused his wife, Esther, to seek a divorce, and their four children suffered the most.

One of them, Jim Junior, in fact killed himself in New York City, and this put the Bishop into a real tailspin. Like Conan Doyle before him, he took to seances to raise the spirit of his boy. And then he came to believe that he would find redemption out in the desert, and the whole world was shocked when his body was found in the wilderness. Robertson recites all these numbing facts ably and with deep understanding.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By LuelCanyon on March 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is the biography of Pike that we've been waiting for. Robertson's achievment is awesome and this book is marvelous. Pike's many difficulties -alcoholism, ambition, theological posturing, difficulties in his family, with his women- are finally choreographed into the submissive background where they belong, as the three-dimensional Pike emerges broken and whole - a man addicted to action. Believing, warring, loving, campaigning, preaching, living and dying - Pike sat astride the rhythm of unrelenting action, for good or ill. Those who look to the inconsistencies in James Pike to find the living parts are looking too far. His great personal truth was in his every action- wild and true, beautiful, violent. Passionate Pilgrim brings it all before us. David Robertson's intelligence arrives with a stash of new ideas and insights, a scathing sympathy for his subject, and the ear of a real writer. Anyone interested in Pike's story will be mesmerized by this book that demonstrates better than any other I can think of the ecstatic dimensions of biography that can be achieved by perfect prose.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Steven H Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on January 17, 2013
Format: Paperback
The case of James A. Pike (1913-1969) is sad. Once the dean of the largest Protestant church in the world, with a highly-watched TV show, after three arraignments for heresy (see If This Be Heresy, and The Bishop Pike Affair: Scandals of Conscience and Heresy, Relevance and Solemnity in the Contemporary Church (William Stringfellow Reprint)), he resigned his bishopric. Pike's son, Jim Jr., tragically took his own life in 1966 (Pg. 159-160), and a heartbroken Pike turned to psychic séances (see pg. 166-167 & 188-190, as well as Arthur Ford: The Man Who Talked with the Dead)), and Pike's last book, The Other Side: An Account of My Experiences with Psychic Phenomena details his participation in these.

Robertson explains, "The conviction that he was living at a unique 'moment of truth' in the history of Christianity prompted Pike in the mid-1960s to write two of his most controversial books... His later interest in spiritualism was perhaps a desperate grasping after kairos [the supreme moment]." (Pg. 49) On reading English bishop John Robinson's Honest to God, "Pike's response to this book was the most galvanic of his religious enthusiasms to date." (Pg. 121)

He admits, "he also increased the pressures and risks within his private life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By bikauai on April 3, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I grew up going to All Saints Episcopal Church in Carmel, California, in the late 1950s and into the 1960s. During much of that time, Bishop Pike was the head of the Northern California Episcopal Church, so I was well aware of him as a controversial church figure. Even as I drifted away from the organized Christian churches in my late teens, I was stilled intrigued by this seeker of truth. This biography of Bishop Pike does a good job of detailing and explaining his movement from Roman Catholic to mainstream Episcopalian (and cold war liberal) to a challenger of orthodox Christian beliefs (and radical political figure) as he sought to find and re-connect with spirituality and its application to the real world. His complex psychology, his alcoholism and affairs, his difficulties in his relationships with his family, and his combativeness with opponents in the church are fairly and clearly examined, even as readers get a clear sense of a man who kept looking for more, not content with the established (and establishment) "truth" in his church. I came away from this book with a much better idea of the man, his life, and his immersion in a deep religious search that unfortunately ended with his death in the Judean desert. This is a balanced book that tells us as much about the times of the 1950s and 1960s as it does about this extraordinary and yet troubled man.
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