James Pike burst on the public scene in 1952 when he became the exciting young Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Well known in Episcopal Church circles as an articulate and winsome leader, he had risen to prominence as a teacher of the orthodox faith. But little by little he moved more and more to the liberal side of the church’s doctrinal teaching. By the time he became the Bishop of California in 1958 he was well along in his departure from the historic faith. He wrote and spoke in support of the sexual revolution of the 1960’s, encouraging young people to abandon all that had historically been taught to the followers of Jesus. It was a scandal to the church. The media loved him.
At a gathering of the House of Bishops, in 1966, he was censured after a tumultuous session in which many bishops argued for his suspension from the sacred ministry. They did not prevail because the majority feared the media response to a “heresy trial.” Less than two years later Bishop Pike resigned from his office, and became a speaker and writer for the liberal world. He died tragically some years later near the Dead Sea, after a complete renunciation of the Faith. But in spite of all this he was never defrocked by his fellow bishops.
In the 1970’s a new Book of Common Prayer was published and approved, and within it were some of the seeds sown by Bp Pike. The groundwork had been laid that would allow more and more departures from the faith to become acceptable. Those who planted these seeds did much of their work in darkness, just as the Lord Jesus predicted so long ago. If the truth behind that revision of 1979 had been known earlier in that decade, the revision would almost certainly have been derailed. There were many dissenting voices, but not a majority. Most of the orthodox were eventually lulled by the inclusion of a number of “options” and “historic” additions.
By the 1980’s the ascendancy of leaders who actually admired Bp Pike was beginning to be seen. More and more conserving forces were mobilizing to try to turn the tide, but in retrospect it is clear they were doing too little too late. What now seems beyond doubt, is that the consenting majority – which included the orthodox – were not seeing clearly the extent of the dangerous takeover that was occurring.
A new Presiding Bishop, Edmund Browning, was installed in 1988 and he was begged by some of his brother bishops (in secret) not to push forward the revolutionary sexual agenda being spearheaded by the gay movement. Their appeal was in vain. When at the1994 General Convention biblical conservatives managed to move a resolution affirming monogamous marriage between a man and a woman as the church’s teaching, and denying homosexual unions, a sizable group of bishops subsequently declared that they would not obey it. Browning’s successor was chosen at Philadelphia in 1997, and he was a bishop who openly supported the gay and lesbian agenda. When the election was announced the House of Bishops rose to applaud him.
Next Week: Why Did We Let It Happen?