Perhaps you’ve read about the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding. She is an Episcopal priest(ess) in Seattle who has decided that “Jesus led her” to be both a Christian and a Muslim.
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.”
Right. Except being African-American and being a woman are not mutually exclusive aspects of one’s identity.
We should not be surprised at such a statement, however. We could say that it is just one more example of the apostasy of mainline denominations. We could say that this is just another story about the cafeteria religion of modern America. It is both of those things, but it is also about something deeper and more ancient: Me. Sorry, God, but I will do what I will do, and I will be Who I will be. (Oh, was that your Name, God?) Ann Holmes Redding is simply reaping fruit that’s been rotting on the branch next to an empty space where Adam and Eve once stood. It tastes sweet on the tongue, but it turns bitter in the digestive tract.
I thought about posting a question on the Seattle Times live chat yesterday, but what sort of question can you ask of such a person? What about such-and-such a place where Jesus says, “…”? Or here, where Paul says, “…”? Do you really think that the authority of the Christian Scriptures has played any part in her choice? This is all about the authority of Me.
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.”
Of course it is. Christians ought to take heed of the way she puts things and beware lest they let their feelings and understanding rule their faith and, ultimately, the Faith.
I feel for orthodox Episcopalians and Anglicans (I think there still are some) who would challenge Redding’s reading of Christianity. They are undermined by their “bishops” at every turn.
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.
We’re Episcopalians; we revel in the “highly unusual”! Dear Lord, preserve us from the “exciting.” And preserve us from the likes of “pastors” such as these:
As much as she loves her church, she has always challenged it. She calls Christianity the “world religion of privilege.” She has never believed in original sin. And for years she struggled with the nature of Jesus’ divinity.
She found a good fit at St. Mark’s, coming to the flagship of the Episcopal Church in Western Washington in 2001. She was in charge of programs to form and deepen people’s faith until March this year when she was one of three employees laid off for budget reasons.
In other words, she never was a Christian in the first place. Muslim? Why not? Her story should serve as a warning in another way as well:
Ironically, it was at St. Mark’s that she first became drawn to Islam.
In fall 2005, a local Muslim leader gave a talk at the cathedral, then prayed before those attending. Redding was moved. As he dropped to his knees and stretched forward against the floor, it seemed to her that his whole body was involved in surrendering to God.
Then in the spring, at a St. Mark’s interfaith class, another Muslim leader taught a chanted prayer and led a meditation on opening one’s heart. The chanting appealed to the singer in Redding; the meditation spoke to her heart. She began saying the prayer daily.
Around that time, her mother died, and then “I was in a situation that I could not handle by any other means, other than a total surrender to God,” she said.
She still doesn’t know why that meant she had to become a Muslim. All she knows is “when God gives you an invitation, you don’t turn it down.”
In March 2006, she said her shahada — the profession of faith — testifying that there is only one God and that Mohammed is his messenger. She became a Muslim.
If the leader of the congregation cannot stand firm against a false god, how will the people?
1“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. 2Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. 3Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD. … 13In the prophets of Samaria I saw an unsavory thing: they prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. (Jeremiah 23:1-4, 13, ESV)
As always, Kyrie eleison and maranatha!