The Episcopal House of Bishops attempted to head off heresy proceedings against Resigned Bishop James A. Pike last month by adopting, 103 to 36, a statement denouncing Pike’s conduct and doctrinal statements. The attempt failed, for though Pike’s accusers seemed satisfied, the statement was so abhorrent to Pike that he moved to put trial machinery in motion “to clear my name.”

This drama—which upstaged other business at the bishops’ annual meeting in Wheeling, West Virginia—featured two antagonists and a venerable peacemaker.

Pike’s adversary was the bishop of South Florida, Henry I. Louttit, a small man whose bearing reminds one of a strutting bantam rooster, and who styles himself “a born fighter.” Louttit claimed the signatures of 27 other bishops supporting charges against Pike (only three are required).

Believing Louttit’s action would “bring harm to the Church if it resulted in a heresy trial,” Presiding Bishop John E. Hines appointed an ad hoc committee on the case. Its chairman was Angus Dun, retired bishop of Washington, D.C. Dun, who ordained Pike to the priesthood in 1946 and has remained a close personal friend, is warmly regarded by almost all the bishops. To insure that committee action would have maximum effectiveness, Louttit and two other Pike opponents were put on the group. But Pike was not allowed to appear before the committee.

The committee’s 1200-word statement, which was adopted by the house, rejected Pike’s “irresponsible” utterances, and said “his writing and speaking on profound realities with which Christian faith and worship are concerned are too often marred by caricatures of precious symbols and at the worst, by cheap vulgarizations of great expressions of faith.”

The statement singled out Pike’s “disparaging way” of speaking about the Trinity—“Yet he knows well that a triune apprehension of the mystery of God’s being and action is woven into the whole fabric of the creeds and prayers and hymnody of our Episcopal Church, as it is into the vows of loyalty taken by our clergy at their ordination. It is explicit in our membership in the World Council of Churches and in our consultations on church union with other major churches …”

The statement said a heresy trial would not solve the Pike problem and would be detrimental to the Church, giving it a “repressive image.”

Belittling the Pike furor, the statement concluded, “we do not think his often obscure and contradictory utterances warrant the time and the work and the wounds of a trial. The Church has more important things to get on with.”

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When the statement came to the floor, debate was tightly restricted. It was to be limited to one hour, Pike and Louttit were to have only ten minutes each, and theological debate was ruled out of order. Pike, speaking to one of five moderating amendments attempts, strongly objected to the ban on theological discussion.

Through a barrage of amendment bids and motions to postpone, the “no” votes prevailed with the rumbling inevitability of a steam-roller. Only one amendment, eliminating “totally” before “irresponsible,” was passed.

The motives for hurrying the document to approval were varied. Many bishops hoped such action would avoid the deeper involvement of a trial which might split the church into theological factions. (Several younger bishops asked why Pike was subjected to such censure when other bishops hold the same views but are not as much in the public eye.) Some sympathized with Pike but feared a trial would be more calamitous than the statement. Others were impatient with the amount of time the Pike case had diverted from other church matters in the past few years.

Near the end of the hour debate, the conscience of the House apparently was troubled by the brusque treatment of Pike, and it voted to extend the debate for one hour after cocktails and supper. Vermont’s Bishop Harvey Butterfield complained, “I have found in this whole business no spirit of Christ.”

During the debate, Pike shifted about restlessly in his chair. When he spoke he maintained precise control of his voice and diction, but one could detect a slight vibration of the papers he held.

Pike charged that “this House is not interested in theology, but only public relations.” When he raised a theological point he was ruled out of order.

Pike’s demand for a full investigation of the “rumors, reports, and allegations” against him obviates any presentment of charges against him, and initiates the same process as in a heresy trial. Next, three to seven bishops will decide if charges constitute a canonical offense if proven. Hines said he would act quickly to name this group. If the charges are found canonical, an inquiry board of five presbyters and five laymen must decide if there are sufficient grounds to put Pike on trial. The matter would then go before the court for bishop trials, which is now depleted in membership and cannot be filled until next year’s triennial convention.

Pike has threatened to go as far as a civil court to make sure all stages of the investigation or trial be open to the public. Pike considers the press his ally. During the conference, the press-room was his frequent retreat. The threat of adverse publicity for the church is a chief weapon Pike commands in his effort to be cleared. He said he will bring theologians from all over the world to testify in his defense. “If there has to be a trial … it would be another Scopes trial,” he said.

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Pike’S Replacement

James A. Pike’s successor as bishop of California lived up to moderates’ expectations when he visited Grace Cathedral for staff conferences. C. Kilmer Myers, who is scheduled to assume his new duties January 1, was asked in a press conference if he believed in the virgin birth and the Holy Trinity.

“Of course I do,” Myers snapped. Pike had expressed disbelief in the traditional concept of both doctrines.

Myers said of his controversial predecessor, “My friend Bishop Pike is seeking, as many bishops are, to find our way. I don’t think there is anything extraordinary about any bishop attempting to find his way.” He called heresy charges against Pike “unfortunate” and the theological issues involved “extremely confused.” In fact, Myers said, “the accuser is as confused as the accused.”

Myers said the church must concentrate on “an expression of Christian faith in an urbanized society.… I totally disagree with the thesis that the church should not be involved in civil affairs. There is a growing group of laymen who are resisting moving into what should be the mission of the church.”

He characterized his general stance as follows: “I am as liberal as the most liberal Roman Catholic you can find.”


Lutheran Olive Branches

The American Lutheran Church’s biennial convention in late October made less peace with pacifists than with other Christians.

By voice vote, the Minneapolis meeting defeated a resolution recognizing that “Christians may be as much troubled in conscience regarding participation in a particular war as they may be by participation in war in general” and asking the government to change its policies accordingly. The 1,000 delegates (half clergy, half laity) then approved a long, major statement on “War, Peace, and Freedom” that had been under study for six years.

Local Lutheran collegians who wanted a pacifist statement added to the document were denied permission to demonstrate with placards inside the meeting place, Central Lutheran Church. ALC President Fredrik A. Schiotz, 65, who earlier had been elected to four more years in office, decided to permit a prayer demonstration outside the church, although he said he didn’t like prayer for publicity purposes. But the demonstration was restrained, with about two dozen students standing silently in a line with their heads bowed. A resolution called U.S. aims in Viet Nam “sound,” but delegates admitted “an uneasy feeling that our nation’s actions at times belie our stated aims.”

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Similar calm spirit was shown in discussing ALC relations with Reformed churches, the National Council of Churches, and the three other Lutheran bodies the ALC will join when the Lutheran Council in the U. S. A. is organized next week in Cleveland. (The groups are the Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and the small Slavic-background Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches.)

After four years of talk, a panel of theologians from various Lutheran and Reformed denominations urged discussions toward “intercommunion and the fuller recognition of one another’s ministry.” The ALC approved the idea and will work with other Lutherans toward this goal. The talks are backed by the U. S. wing of the Lutheran World Federation (of which Schiotz is president) and the World Presbyterian Alliance.

Getting closer to home, the ALC authorized its inter-church committee to look into an official declaration of altar and pulpit fellowship with other Lutheran Council members, with the “fervent hope” that favorable action could come at the ALC’s next meeting (Omaha, 1968).

The fellowship proposal highlighted Schiotz’s report at the opening session. He said it would permit pastors to exchange pulpits and members to receive the Lord’s Supper at services of local congregations within Lutheran bodies that have formally expressed doctrinal agreement on preaching of the Gospel and administration of the sacraments. Officially, ALC communion is closed to non-members, Lutheran or otherwise. In practice, local churches have increasingly opened communion to members of the Lutheran Church in America. The other major body, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, keeps communion tightly closed.

Missouri Synod’s C. Thomas Spitz, Jr., who will be general secretary of the new Lutheran Council, said the new agency would seek “achievement of theological consensus in a systematic and continuing way” and “a maximum of cooperation and a minimum of duplication or competition in financing and work.” Altar and pulpit fellowship isn’t on the council agenda yet, but Spitz predicted it “will come.… Those of us who believe in the Holy Spirit have to believe that it is inevitable so long as men of God speak to each other as those who belong to God and not to themselves.”

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Spitz said the council will provide “undeniable benefits” in presenting a common Lutheran front in ecumenical talks with other Christians. “But we dare not permit our joy and optimism over the very existence of the council either to camouflage our continued separation from each other and others, or to dull our impatience because of that separation.”

The Lutheran Council groups have set up a Commission on Worship to prepare liturgical materials for common use by all Lutherans, and the ALC called for an inter-Lutheran hymnal within a decade.

The ALC, one of the major holdouts from joining the National Council of Churches, invited NCC General Secretary R. H. Edwin Espy to tell delegates about the council’s activities and policies. The delegates authorized a two-year study on whether ALC should join the NCC, and Espy pointed out that forty-six representatives of the ALC already sit on NCC member boards.

Espy deplored church tendencies to put secular issues “outside the realm of God” and defended the NCC’s statements on social issues. “What we say does not claim to represent the member churches, and certainly not the 41 million members of the NCC churches; but equally clearly, it does represent the delegates of the churches elected to represent them in the NCC General Assembly and its General Board.”

In other action, former bookstore manager Arnold Mickelson, 44, was elected to a six-year term as secretary, thus becoming the first lay officer of the ALC.

The convention urged its evangelism commission to push proclamation in the inner city and to support racial integration in local communities with the application of Christ’s love through all ALC members.

The delegates rejected compulsory Social Security coverage for clergymen but learned that three-fourths of them are enrolled anyway. A $24 million budget for 1967 was passed, along with plans for a year-long drive to raise at least $20 million for the seventeen ALC colleges and seminaries.


Catholic Catechism Cataclysm

“It cannot be told how many good and holy things grew out of the Reformation for the whole of Christianity, even in its very own aspects. The Roman Catholic Church cannot do without it.” These Protestant-sounding words carry the unflinching authority of Cardinal Alfrink and the bishops of the Dutch Roman Catholic Church.

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A new adult catechism, published in the Netherlands last month, also calls Martin Luther “a man with prophetic word-power and deep religious feelings who started a movement which could not be kept within the general church.”

Interest in the 604-page book was so great that publishers increased their printing orders twice before the first copy had been bound. Pre-publication sales ran over 200,000 copies among the estimated four million Catholics in the nation of 12 million.The October 15 issue of a slick Dutch women’s magazine says one-third of the population has broken completely with Christianity. Church figures in its major poll are significantly below 1960 government tallies.

The “Hail Mary” has disappeared, and for the first time a catechism does not provide ready-made answers for prefabricated questions. The book tries to explain the meaning of the Gospel in non-theological words and hasn’t confined faith to formulas. It is a pastoral document, directed more to the heart than to the head.

Roman Catholics generally are in for some surprises. So is Pope Paul. When Cardinal Alfrink gave the pope a copy, his reported reply was, “I am sorry that I cannot read it.” He soon will be able to—translations are on the way in Italian, English, and four other languages.

The catechism has some counsel for the pope, who hasn’t yet decided what to tell his people about family planning. Its advice: “One does not let his family increase without responsibility toward the family itself and the world as a whole.” The faithful are advised to seek information from physicians, not priests. The catechism says that Vatican II didn’t say anything about the means of birth control and that a “clear evolution” exists on the question.

On the Inquisition, the book asks, “How is it possible that a Christian community [note—not the Church] could act against people who believed differently, in the way the Roman Empire had acted against the Christians?”

The distinction between mortal and venial sins is clearly on the way out: “One cannot say exactly whether a sin is serious or not.”

Perhaps the most remarkable section is on the elements of the Holy Supper. Earlier Dutch rumblings apparently stimulated Paul’s 1965 encyclical reaffirming transubstantiation. (On August 18, the Dutch bishops tried to quiet fears with a letter reaffirming their fidelity to the faith.)

The catechism warns that the bread “is neither to be seen as a piece of Christ, nor as purely symbolic.” “Transubstantiation” may become “transublimation” under this new definition: “The presence of Christ is connected with the bread. Thus the bread is a symbol in which He is present among us. The ordinary bread has become for us the Bread of Eternal Life—Christ.”

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Evangelicals will like the frequent quotation of the Bible and the beautiful statements about the resurrection, faith, forgiveness, grace, and the miracles of Christ. But the existential “new theology” of the French school has put its stamp on the work. The first eleven chapters of Genesis are considered, not as historical fact, but as “symbolic stories that describe the whole of human history.”

The book is certainly Roman Catholic, even though certain typical views are almost explained away with a shrug. Dutch Protestants were especially irked by its teaching on mixed marriages: “It is irreconcilable with the Gospel for children to be reared outside the Catholic community.” The Protestant paper De Rotterdammer responded: “It seems we are still spiritually handicapped.”


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