October 23-28 was the date set for the meeting of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church. The bishops meeting here will have a matter on their agenda which seldom appears any more on the agendas of ecclesiastical assemblies: the trial of a clergyman for heresy. The clergyman under attack in this case is Bishop James A. Pike. This is not the first time that he has been charged with heresy, nor is this the first time that controversy has swirled around him. In the last years Pike seemed to have derived a peculiar delight from creating storms of controversy with his views. He was always speaking out on something or other; and what he had to say was inevitably heretical. 

Earlier this Fall he resigned his position as Bishop in the Diocese of California and became a staff research fellow with the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara, California. He still retained the title of auxiliary bishop, a title which a short time ago he also resigned giving as his reason his unwillingness to involve his successor in the present quarrel. But he still retains his office and the attempt is now being made to unfrock him. 

What is different about the charges brought against Pike this time is the fact that they are being brought by a fellow bishop— one who is a very influential prelate within his Church. Bishop Louttit of Southern Florida has filed the charges and has persuaded at least thirty other bishops to support him and endorse his request. His prediction was that he would gain as many as one hundred on his side. Bishop Louttit explains his request for a heresy trial on the grounds views. He charges Pike with heresy, violation of his ordination vows, and conduct unbecoming a clergyman. Although the outcome of the trial is uncertain, what is certain is that Pike is indeed a heretic even by Episcopalian standards. He openly denies such fundamental doctrines as the truth of the Trinity, the Virgin Birth of Christ, the Physical Resurrection of Christ, and consequently, Christ’s divinity. 

While Pike is no longer an active bishop in the church, he intends to fight the charges made against him to the end. It is his opinion that the issue is not one of heresy, but of whether “the Episcopal Church confines itself to a narrow interpretation of theology or allows its traditional wide range of freedom in seeking the truth.” In other words, to Pike the issue is whether or not the church will give him the freedom to believe anything he chooses even though his views may conflict with Scripture and the historic confessions of the church. In his warped opinion, this is the true conception of pursuing the truth. 

Although there are many Episcopalians who have, for a long time, been alarmed by Pike’s views, still the leaders in the Church are deeply worried. They are concerned about what disastrous effects a heresy trial will have on the Church’s image and what will be the result of the bitter conflicts created in the Church by such a trial. They have tried to persuade Louttit to abandon his charges, but have not succeeded. 

At this writing, it is not yet known what the House of Bishops decided, although reports are that the House of Bishops will let Pike off with a severe rep retain his office and hoping that, out of the active work of the ministry, he will not be such a bother to the Church. 

In a sense, not Pike is on trial, but the Episcopal Church itself. Any Church which can tolerate such heretics as Pike obviously is cannot claim the right any longer to be a Church. The very fact that Pike has been permitted to speak his views so long without official censure is clear evidence that the Church has lost her heritage; and it will be hard put to reclaim it — even should Pike be condemned and ousted. 

Of broader interest is the fact that in this day of ecumenism, heresy trials are increasingly unpopular and few in number. The point is, quite obviously, that the church cannot be ecumenical and at the same time maintain the truth. It must make a choice between the two, for they in this day are mutually exclusive.


It is just possible that Vatican II, finished last year in Rome, may have lit a fire which cannot be put out. It appears that many prelates within the Romish Church have taken Vatican II as a signal that they are released from the authority of the Church and are given the green light to pursue their theological studies with complete freedom. This is apparently the chief issue in the troubles of the Roman Catholic Church. There have always been many within the Church who have not been in agreement with the teachings of their Church, but have kept a discreet silence for the most part since there is no room for deviation from accepted dogma. There was always just as much heresy in this denomination as anywhere else. Only it did not come to the surface very often. But now this seems to be changing. Members of the hierarchy are daring to speak publicly of their forbidden views; and what they have to say is often a challenge to the Church’s position. 

Two recent events make this clear. And these two events show also that the Pope is quite alarmed by it all. 

The first event is a meeting of twelve hundred Roman Catholic scholars held in Rome with Protestant observers and called the International Congress on the Theology of the Second Vatican Council. The official Vatican Radio had one explanation of the reason for the meeting. Speaking of the treasures of truth contained in the Council’s decrees, it spoke of the purpose of the meeting as being to reflect on the effects they have caused, and interpret the spirit of the Council and the whole concept of conciliar theology. But the Italian Radio was a bit more blunt — and to the point. It described the purpose of the meeting as being to mend the serious rifts within the Catholic Church over interpretations of Vatican II decrees. 

That the latter description is probably more correct is substantiated by the greetings which the Pope sent to the meeting, in which he warned sharply of the dangers present in the Church to separate theologizing from the teachings of the Church and described this tendency as the road to heresy. He spoke of the danger doctrine and faith; and made it quite plain that he was not about to surrender his own authority in these matters. 

The second event which emphasizes the dangers following upon Vatican II was the publication of a secret letter sent to all the bishops signed by Cardinal Ottaviani, secretary of the congregation. The letter was sent last July and just recently made public. 

Some quotes from the letter will demonstrate its purpose. (The quotes are taken from Our Sunday Visitor).

It is the grave duty of the entire people of God to see that the doctrinal and disciplinary decisions of the council are brought into effect. 

It is the right and duty of the hierarchy, however, to regulate with vigilance, direct and promote the movement toward renovation begun by the council…. 

However, we are compelled to grieve at the sad news we have received concerning abuses in the interpretation of the council’s doctrine prevailing in various areas, and the strange and audacious opinions arising here and there which are more than slightly disturbing the souls of many of the faithful. 

Studies and undertakings designed for a more accurate investigation of the truth by properly distinguishing between what must be believed and what is a matter of opinion are praiseworthy; but from the documents examined by this sacred congregation it is clear with regard to not a few opinions that they easily transgress the limits of a mere opinion or hypothesis and seem to affect dogma itself and the foundations of faith to a certain degree.

Some of the doctrines and abuses referred to are: 

1) The attack on sacred revelation; i.e., treating Scripture without consulting tradition. 

2) The teaching of evolution of dogma with the resulting doctrine that dogma is subject to change. 

3) The neglect of the authority of the hierarchy. 

4) The denial of objective truth, making all truth relative and subjective. 

5) The denial of miracles, the divinity and resurrection of Christ. 

6) The denial of the Romish interpretation of the sacraments. 

7) The denial of the teaching of the Council of Trent on the matter of original sin. 

8) The acceptance in some circles of the “new morality” and “situation ethics”. 

9) The fostering of a spirit of ecumenism which is willing to sacrifice fundamental dogmas of the Church. 

The letter was intended to be secret and remained so for some time. But it was made public because “‘certain daily newspapers have not hesitated to publish some parts of it — in spite of the fact that the nature of the letter demanded complete discretion — and have misrepresented the proper substance of the document.” So it was said, “We are publishing it lest doubts arise concerning what the letter does indeed contain and what purpose the Holy See intended it to have.” 

It appears as if the winds of change are blowing into a gale. And this gale is blowing the Church in the direction of the same modernism which is running rampant in so many other denominations. All this will surely enhance the possibilities of union and advance the ecumenical movement. 


A new society has been formed with the name, “Life Extension Society”. Its periodical is called “Freeze-Wait-Reanimate” which rather clearly expresses their purpose. They propose that a person, when he dies, have his body frozen rather than buried or cremated. This will cost a mere $4,000.00 plus $150.00 a year for maintenance. The idea is that at some time in the future, science will succeed in discovering the secret of life and will be able to “resurrect” these bodies and restore those who have died to a long life in the world. 

Such foolish ideas are really of very little interest to us. What does interest us, however, is the fact that this is put into a Christian perspective. Proponents of this program claim that their ideas conform precisely to Christian teachings since the sacredness of life is stressed by Christianity and the old Christian explanation of the resurrection is surrounded by a great deal of myth. In other words, this is science’s explanation of the resurrection from the dead. What Scripture says is myth; this is what we must look forward to. 

It is intriguing also that while theologians generally scoff at the whole idea, the reasons why they scoff are quite different from what we would expect. They are not concerned about the denial of the truth of Scripture involved. They are rather worried about what reanimation will do to the problem of overpopulation. Or what reanimation will do to man himself who is a profoundly historical being and cannot likely live in a different historical setting than the one into which he was born. 

How blessed is the hope of the child of God who awaits the final resurrection of his body, when he shall be made like unto the glorious body of Christ, to dwell forever in heaven!