Episcopal Bishop James A. Pike, who is full of surprises, came up with the biggest one yet this month. He resigned.

The dynamic and controversial bishop, noted for theological vagaries, wants to be relieved of the pressures of administering the Diocese of California to become a “scholar-teacher” at the freewheeling Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara, California.

Pike told Associated Press he was “not driven to my decision by critics; actually, my critics delayed the decision. Every so often, there would be a little flurry, so I stayed.”

Heresy charges against Pike have never gotten off the ground, but reaction was strong after his most recent assault on tradition in Look magazine (see CHRISTIANITY TODAY, February 18 issue, page 46). Authoritative church sources said several influential bishops held an extraordinary showdown meeting with Pike at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, where he was encouraged to seek a new post. The bishop had been thinking of returning to academic life as a result of a sabbatical leave in England. A second bishops’ meeting reportedly was held at O’Hare several weeks ago.

Pike would be the first Episcopal bishop ever to leave church work for a secular position. In his letter of resignation to Presiding Bishop John Hines, Pike said he would remain a bishop and participate in church affairs as requested.

Hines issued a noncommittal statement noting that Pike’s letter would be sent to members of the House of Bishops. A majority vote by letter would approve the change and is expected.

Pike’s move was a surprise even to associates at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. He met with the diocesan standing committee May 10, and it accepted the resignation “with regret.” Notification ...

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