It is tempting to view the fracas over a gay bishop as another instance of liberals sparring with conservatives. Like revision of the Book of Common Prayer and approval of the ordination of women, Gene Robinson’s confirmation as a bishop in the Episcopal Church could be interpreted as a victory for liberals intent on affirming diversity and securing justice for excluded minorities. The cries of his opponents could be heard as the voices of conservatives who fear abandonment of historic standards of faith and morality.
But the support Robinson assembled, and the opposition he elicited, went beyond culture-wars assumptions. Instead, Robinson’s broad-based support reveals that a new spiritual view of the church has become decisive among Episcopalians. Robinson was elected in New Hampshire, supporters declared, because his life and ministry uphold the necessarily spiritual basis for Episcopal life.