Guest article by Dr. Livingston Greystoke
Bishop S. I. Newman stood at the Gate of Heaven. There Saint Peter met him. We are privy to their conversation which I report just as it occurred.
St. Peter: Who are you?
Bishop Newman: Who are you? Where am I?
St. Peter: I am Peter, the Lord’s apostle. You are at the very entrance of heaven. I can tell, Mr. Newman, you are surprised to see me. Did you think that what we now see extending out through that Gate to eternity was a myth? You did teach, quite consciously, the Lord Jesus was a mental projection of the needs and hopes of us disciples. Certainly, you did not expect to meet Him – or me - here, did you? I assure you, Mr. Newman, we are quite real.
Bishop Newman: You can understand why I made such an assumption. Our most brilliant scholars in the most esteemed academies using the most contemporary historical analysis convinced me. I was just using my God-given reason to consider the texts. God would not want me to commit ‘intellectual suicide’ in reflecting on what people wrote about him – or her – or it- whoever.
St. Peter: Reason is one thing, prejudice another. And, isn’t reason exercised together with faith? After all, ‘without faith it is impossible to please God’. Let me ask you. Why should you be admitted through these gates?
Bishop Newman: Since you asked, all modesty aside, I rose to the top of the clergy ranks; colleague among colleagues; leader of leaders; most devout of the devout, esteemed by clergy and lay; viewed to have an unusual set of leadership skills; an apt expounder of relativizing the Scriptures for our day; and passionate for the issues which oppress. What might have been my most important attribute, I was recognized as having the gift of being able to make myself acceptable to all. I strove to fulfill Jesus’ greatest passion - unity in the Church! This was no easy task. Glory be to God what God inspired in me!
St. Peter: Were you not like brother Paul? He regarded ‘everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord?’ He determined to ‘never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’. Didn’t you hold back from preaching the cross? You thought it foolishness so you didn’t preach it! Though it is foolishness to the pagans brother Paul preached it anyway! You should have known the cross is the power of God to those being saved. You thought talk of the cross as a necessary, objective substitutionary sacrifice for sin a crass antiquarian throwback to medieval days.
Bishop Newman: But I was so moved when I administered the Eucharist and passed the cup, saying, ‘The blood of Christ given for you. Amen’. It was a numinous experience.
St. Peter: But you lived as an enemy of the cross. You promulgated the rejection of the authority of God’s Word by urging persons to indulge their lusts and make their god the belly. You, of all people, the ecclesial leader of God’s people, have led the weak into licentious ways. You have encouraged extra-marital sex by advocating the right to homosexual practice. You ought to know unrepentant ‘fornicators’ will not be at home here! You promised freedom but gave slavery!
Bishop Newman: I was extremely passionate on behalf of those upon whom the shadow of the cross falls. I stood with the oppressed and the ‘have-nots’ against ‘the haves’. I challenged systems of discrimination and injustice. I politicked for the care of creation and climate justice. I struggled against the criminalization of abortion. I supported the absolute right of a woman to choose to abort a fetus at any stage in her womb. I fought hard against the erection of structures of homophobia and heterosexism. I have protested against discrimination based on gender identity – transvestites should be welcomed in every pulpit! Prejudice against any chosen, loving sexual practice must not be indulged.
St. Peter: Bishop S. I. Newman, your compassion for the humble, the lowly, the poor in body and spirit is admirable. Nonetheless, for you, what is bitter is sweet; what is dark is light; what is false is true. You have the form of religion but not the power. You know the politic but not the Person. You are a teacher of the law without understanding either what you say or the things about which you assert. You have come to the wrong Gate. Your own words speak against you. You will neither fit nor be happy here. Adieu.