The camaraderie between theological antagonists has caused a firestorm in the blogosphere. On the right, critics see Mr. Baucum as soft on crime because he has called Bishop Johnston not only a friend but also a brother in Christ. On the left, some doubters see Mr. Baucum as a schismatic.

“The extreme on the right and the extreme on the left have much to lose if they give an inch,” said the Rev. J. Barney Hawkins IV, vice president of Virginia Theological Seminary. “If you’ve made your position synonymous with the will of God, it is very difficult to be reasonable.”

The backlash intensified when Bishop Johnston allowed a prominent author, John Dominic Crossan, who has questioned the literal truth of key elements of the New Testament, to address his diocesan clergy. In response, the leader of breakaway Anglicans in Virginia, Bishop John A. M. Guernsey, asked Mr. Baucum not to appear in public with the Episcopal bishop. Bishop Guernsey explained in an email interview that “the Episcopal Church’s embrace of false teachers and false teaching made it impossible for the relationship to continue.” (The relationship has, in fact, continued, but more privately and with less frequent get-togethers.)