In her book The White Album, Joan Didion includes a chapter on the former Bishop James A. Pike,  who proposed fairly radical changes to the operations of the  Episcopal Church, while battling the conservative hierarchy, who wanted to brand him a heretic, then left the Episcopal Church in 1968, before perishing in the Judean wilderness of Israel the next year, while exploring it with his third wife Jane Kennedy.

Pike died while I was still in high school. I am now 71-years-old. All this happened before most of my readers were born; but Bishop Pike endures as a topic of interest for contemporary Americans for several reasons. As a church leader, he took contrary positions, such as attaining racial equality for Minorities and allowing the ordination of women and homosexuals. He loudly denied standard church doctrine.

As an individual, Pike had glaring flaws that overshadowed the utility of the changes he proposed. He overspent on church projects. He was a publicity-houmd. More seriously, he was also a booze-hound and mistreated his women. As a non-believer, the changes he proposed to the operations of the Episcopal Church have no bearing on my life; but as an organizational man, I mistrust anyone who aspires to the leadership of an organization, then misuses its power and influence.

Didion expressed mostly contempt for Pike: "Here was a man who moved through life believing that he was entitled to . . . shed women when they became difficult . . . and simply move on"; but Didion let her outrage color and subjectivize her observations; so that anyone interested in Pike's actions and controversies has to learn about them elsewhere.

So I offer my readers two publications that do just that. In a 1975 issue of The Witness, edited by Robert L. DeWitt, himself a retired Episcopal Bishop. DeWitt writes about Pike:

   I find it difficult to assess him. . . . He was essentially a popularizer. . . . You always felt when
   he was talking to you that he was giving you a press interview. . . . There was this sort of spiel
   coming out, and whoever was there, well, it didn't seem to make much fifference. . . . I did feel
   a certain unease with the fact that he never seemed really to listen.

David M. Robertson's biography about Pike, A Passionate Pilgrim, goes into more detail about his problematic life. Robertson pulls back most of the bureaucratic curtains that shield prominent men from the public eye. He read through the departmental communications and reports of the various committees and public figures that Pike dealt with during his career. They are a real eye-opener and suggest that heresy was the least of his problems:

   Page 71: Joseph Blau, Professor of Philosophy at Columbia Univesity, complained about
                  Pike's "expansionist, imperial policy."

   Page 107: Darby Betts discovered soon after his arrival at the California Diocesan Offices
                  that his unspecified duties also included acting as majordom to Pike, attempting to
                  prevent the bishop from publicaly embarrassing himsel with women or alcohol.

   Page 108: "When we elect a President of the United States . . . we do not ask him what he
                  does with his genitals. We want him to do what he was hired to do well. We tacitly
                  agree that his sex life is his own affair."
                  The Committee's report was kept at its request from most laity on a "need-to-know"

   Page 176: The same month as the Time article appeared, Pike and Diannne Kennedy had
                    become physical lover, and he saw her intermittently.
                    Additionally, he was supporting three households—his own with (his mistress)
                    Maren Bergrud in Santa Barbara, the apartment he also maintained in her name
                    and used as an office, and Esther Pike's (soon-to-be ex-wife) household, including
                    their two children.

Maren Bergrud, disconsolate over Pike's attention to his other women, committed suicide. Pike did not report this to the police. His irresponsible behavior bordered on illegality:

   Page 178: Pike's initial three reations were panic for his own social and religious positions,
                   apparent callousness toward a dying woman, and possibly committing the serious
                   crime of misprisison in deliberately concealing the circumstances of a death from
                   a police officer. . . . Pike dragged the now-comatose Bergrud from their shared
                   apartment down the hall of the building to the apartment that was nomially her
                   residence. . . .
                   Apparently not taking time to try to resuscitate Bergrud himself, Pike frantically
                   used the moments before the arrival of the police and the ambulance to move
                   some of her personal belongings to the office apartment.

Didion's contempt for Pike borders on seething hate. "At the peak of his career, James Albert Pike carried his peace cross (he had put away his pectoral cross for the duration of the Vietnam War . . . through every charlatanic thicket of American life."
Leadership often attracts people who should not aspire to leadership. They simply do not have the necessary character for its responsibilities and limitations. That is why I am reluctant to give much of it to any one person, just to be on the safe side.