Comment: ‘Who are we to judge?’
Taking interfaith kumbayah to new hights:
The Rev. Ann Holmes Redding attends the Sunday morning service at St. Clement’s of Rome Episcopal Church in Seattle. Redding has been an Episcopal priest for 20 years and a Muslim for 15 months.
“I am both Muslim and Christian”
By Janet I. Tu
Seattle Times religion reporter
Shortly after noon on Fridays, the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding ties on a black headscarf, preparing to pray with her Muslim group on First Hill.
On Sunday mornings, Redding puts on the white collar of an Episcopal priest.
She does both, she says, because she’s Christian and Muslim.
Redding, who until recently was director of faith formation at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, has been a priest for more than 20 years. Now she’s ready to tell people that, for the last 15 months, she’s also been a Muslim â€” drawn to the faith after an introduction to Islamic prayers left her profoundly moved.
Her announcement has provoked surprise and bewilderment in many, raising an obvious question: How can someone be both a Christian and a Muslim?
But it has drawn other reactions too. Friends generally say they support her, while religious scholars are mixed: Some say that, depending on how one interprets the tenets of the two faiths, it is, indeed, possible to be both. Others consider the two faiths mutually exclusive.
“There are tenets of the faiths that are very, very different,” said Kurt Fredrickson, director of the doctor of ministry program at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. “The most basic would be: What do you do with Jesus?”
Redding, at right, prays with other members of the Al-Islam Center recently at the Yesler Community Center.
Christianity has historically regarded Jesus as the son of God and God incarnate, both fully human and fully divine. Muslims, though they regard Jesus as a great prophet, do not see him as divine and do not consider him the son of God.
“I don’t think it’s possible” to be both, Fredrickson said, just like “you can’t be a Republican and a Democrat.”
Redding, who will begin teaching the New Testament as a visiting assistant professor at Seattle University this fall, has a different analogy: “I am both Muslim and Christian, just like I’m both an American of African descent and a woman. I’m 100 percent both.”
Redding doesn’t feel she has to resolve all the contradictions. People within one religion can’t even agree on all the details, she said. “So why would I spend time to try to reconcile all of Christian belief with all of Islam?
“At the most basic level, I understand the two religions to be compatible. That’s all I need.”
She says she felt an inexplicable call to become Muslim, and to surrender to God â€” the meaning of the word “Islam.”
“It wasn’t about intellect,” she said. “All I know is the calling of my heart to Islam was very much something about my identity and who I am supposed to be.
“I could not not be a Muslim.”
Redding’s situation is highly unusual. Officials at the national Episcopal Church headquarters said they are not aware of any other instance in which a priest has also been a believer in another faith. They said it’s up to the local bishop to decide whether such a priest could continue in that role.
Redding’s bishop, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner, says he accepts Redding as an Episcopal priest and a Muslim, and that he finds the interfaith possibilities exciting. Her announcement, first made through a story in her diocese’s newspaper, hasn’t caused much controversy yet, he said.
Some local Muslim leaders are perplexed.
Being both Muslim and Christian â€” “I don’t know how that works,” said Hisham Farajallah, president of the Islamic Center of Washington.
* I don’t know either. Last time I checked there were ladies and men. But there are also ladymen… Guess we need just more ‘diversity…’
Seattle: Episcopal priest told by bishop that she can’t profess both Christianity and Islam and stay in priesthood
Ann Holmes ReddingÂ Update: This bishop, unlike another in the initial story, doesn’t seem to “find the interfaith possibilities exciting.”
“Episcopal priest given ultimatum,” by Janet I. Tu for theÂ Seattle Times, October 10:
There are moments these days when the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding sits outside a church or a Muslim gathering, wondering if she will be welcome at either.
It didn’t use to be this way. But now, six months away from what is almost certain to be her defrocking, the Episcopal priest who announced last year that she had also become a Muslim remains steadfast in her belief that she was called to both faiths but says her decision to follow that call has been exceedingly painful at times.
In a letter mailed last week to national and local church leaders, Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island, who has disciplinary authority over the Seattle priest, said a church committee had determined that Redding “abandoned the Communion of the Episcopal Church by formal admission into a religious body not in communion with the Episcopal Church.”
Wolf has affirmed that determination, barring Redding from functioning as a priest for the next six months.
According to church law, unless Redding resigns her priesthood or denies being a Muslim during those six months, the bishop has a duty to defrock â€” or depose â€” her, as the process is formally known.
Redding, who served as director of faith formation at Seattle’s St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, said she has no plans to resign or to renounce Islam, any more than she would renounce Christianity. She does not believe she has abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church.
“I’m saddened and disappointed that this could not be an opportunity” for the church to broaden its perspective and talk about what it means to adhere to more than one faith, Redding said.
“The automatic assumption is that if I’m one of ‘them,’ I can’t be one of ‘us’ anymore.” But “I’m still following Jesus in being a Muslim. I have not abandoned that.”
But Allah has no son.
Redding has been a priest for nearly 25 years.
While she does not regret going public about her embrace of Islam, she does acknowledge being naive about the controversy her announcement would stir up.
“I can definitely be a Pollyanna,” she said. “It never occurred to me it was something to be in the closet about. I just thought it was great.”
Getting to know Islam was “like falling in love,” she said. “You want to share it, you want to get on a rooftop and start shouting.” […]
Redding says she understands why people might be upset that a priest would also profess another faith,Â given that a priest represents the church.Â But she firmly believes she did not break her ordination vows. […]
Nicene Creed? Meh. Details.
Her one regret, she said, is not realizing that some parishioners at St. Mark’s would feel betrayed that they were forming their Christian faith with someone who also professed to be Muslim. She said she has since tried to talk with as many of them as she could.
She will miss the collegiality of her fellow priests, though Bishop Gregory Rickel of the Diocese of Olympia, which covers Western Washington, said Wolf’s decision “does not mean the end of our personal relationships. Pastorally, we in the Diocese of Olympia are very much here for Ann.”
And there is this: As one of the first African-American women the denomination ordained, Redding was sometimes the first female or African-American priest some parishioners had ever seen. “My symbolic role has been an incredible honor.” Now she fears that some “will think I’ve somehow let them down.”
Redding is currently finishing a book with two other local authors called “Out of Darkness into Light: Spiritual Guidance in the Quran with Reflections from Jewish and Christian Sources.” She’d like to do more writing and academic work while pushing forward her desire to build an institute to study the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Maybe somewhere in her studies it will dawn on her that under Islamic law, she would have severely restricted rights as a woman, and for her beliefs, she would be regarded as a heretic, with all the associated dangers to life and limb.