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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

ENS: Priest inhibited as a result of her conversion to Islam

ENS: Rhode Island
By Lisa B. Hamilton, October 14, 2008
[Episcopal News Service]

Bishop Geralyn Wolf of the Diocese of Rhode Island has inhibited the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding for publicly professing her adherence to the Muslim faith.

The notice states that the diocesan “Standing Committee has determined that Dr. Redding abandoned the Communion of the Episcopal Church by formal admission into a religious body not in communion with the Episcopal Church. The bishop has affirmed that determination.”

The inhibition prevents Redding from “exercising the gifts and spiritual authority conferred on her by ordination and from public ministry” and is in force until March 31, 2009. In accordance with Episcopal canons, unless Redding “reclaims” her Christian faith, said Wolf in an interview, the inhibition will automatically lead to a deposition, ending Redding’s priesthood.

“In the process of deposition, we shouldn’t dismiss each other easily,” the bishop said.

According to the “notice of inhibition,” dated September 30 and signed by Wolf, “Dr. Redding has acknowledged taking her Shahadah to become a Muslim.”

“’Shahadah’ is a phrase used in the Koran that translates from the Arabic into English as ‘There is no God but God, and Mohammad is his prophet,’” said Thomas Ferguson, associate deputy for ecumenical and interreligious relations of the Episcopal Church, in an interview.

“The recitation of the Shahadah, said with the intention of becoming a Muslim, in the presence of at least two other Muslims, is how one becomes a Muslim. It’s also part of Islam’s daily prayers,” Ferguson added.

Redding’s knowledge of Islam grew after her arrival at Seattle’s St. Mark’s Cathedral ( as director of faith formation and renewal in 2001. “There was already interest in the parish about interfaith relations, and of course interest in Islam grew exponentially,” she said. She currently lives in Seattle, but no longer works at St. Mark’s. She teaches at a Jesuit seminary but is canonically resident in Rhode Island and therefore under Wolf’s authority.

While serving at St. Mark’s, said Redding in an interview, “I was facing a personal crisis and I needed to surrender. I did know that the word ‘Islam’ means ‘surrender,” but I was surprised when I received what I believe is one of the few invitations I’ve received from God in my life, and that unexpected invitation was to surrender by taking my Shahadah.

“It’s still a mystery as to why, on March 25, 2006, which happens to be my ordination date and the annunciation, I felt called to say the Shahadah with the intention of becoming a Muslim. I’m continuing to explore what it means to be both a Muslim and a Christian, and I expect to be the rest of my life. Being a Muslim makes me a much better Christian, and being a Christian makes me the kind of Muslim I want to be. I see as my calling and privilege witnessing the deep reality of one God.”

“I’m grateful for the chance to meet with Ann twice and to speak with her several times on the phone,” said Wolf. “She’s a very bright person, and I cannot say enough about the depth of her integrity. Hers is not a superficial decision, and this is why I been very deliberate and have taken over a year to talk things through. We’ve been in dialogue since June, 2007.

“However, I believe that Islam and Christianity have enough differences to make it impossible to adhere to them both with integrity. The church wants to be diverse and inclusive, but we’re decidedly Christian. We’re Christ-followers,” said Wolf.

“Despite my respect for and genuine like of Bishop Wolf, I do not believe the canons were written with this situation in mind,” said Redding. “I think the people who wrote them were thinking of other Christian denominations. So my situation gives the church an opportunity to re-examine what it means to be in communion. If we want to survive as a Church, and be faithful witnesses of Christ, I believe all the people of the world must be in communion.”

--The Rev. Lisa B. Hamilton is correspondent for Provinces I, II, III and IV. She is based in Sandisfield, Massachusetts and Venice, Florida.


Anonymous said...

I know Ann's heart. I accompanied her many times in the GTS common room, as we expressed our common veneration for "Visi d'arte" from season to season, year to year. I haven't been in contact with her since then, but I'm pretty damned sure she's doing just fine. God bless you, Ann, and thank you for your vision.

David Thomas said...

I am about as liberal and open-minded person as you will ever meet....however....I think the decision to inhibit a priest who has "converted to Islam" was justified. Is she or isn't she? I don't think it's possible to "have your cake and eat it too" in this case.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I do believe that you can claim to be a Buddhist or a Hindu or a Muslim and still be a devout Christian. I think Ann has a very good point, and I have no doubt that her Christianity is enhanced by walking with Allah as well as Yahweh.

That being said, I think being a priest brings with it a very different responsibility.

In this situation, I sadly agree with Bishop Wolf's decision. I suspect Ann does, as well, with an equally heavy heart.

May God, by whatever name God is known, continue to illumine her pilgrim's path.

Hiram said...

If you think that the completely opposite worldviews of Hinduism and Christianity can be combined with integrity, you either think that the law of non-contradiction does not exist, or that neither Christianity nor Hinduism are true. If you think the latter, it seems to me that you must believe in some "greater truth" that is beyond any of the great faiths - and thus that you are somehow in possession of a revelation that has come only to a privileged few.

If you do not believe in the law of non-contradiction, there is not much I can say, for have undertaken to live on close terms with nonsense.

Is the Rev Ann Holmes a decent, compassionate person? From all I have heard, yes. But while that is admirable, it is not of the essence of being a Christian. Islam and Christianity have irreconcilable views of who Jesus is and what the significance of his life, death, and resurrection is. They cannot both be true - unless of course the law of non-contradiction is invalid. But if the law of non-contradiction is not valid, then to kill someone in the name of Jesus is the same as giving that person a drink of water.

susankay said...

I think the inhibition makes sense. Do I think God cares: probably not.

Matthew said...

I'm not sure Christianity is right for me some days, let alone the Episcopal Church in particular so I understand seeing bits of truth that in a macro sense are irreconcilable and you are having a hard time choosing. But, I think if you become a priest your commitment needs to be different than someone in the pews questioning where they fit in, which is where I've sojourned most of my life.

Jim said...

I do not know that there is a single view of Jesus in Buddhist, Hindu or Islamic thought. I am certain that there are multiple views within Christianity. So to propose a "law of non-contradiction rule" judging another person's heart without knowing the person seems to me entirely wrong.


JCF said...

If you do not believe in the law of non-contradiction, there is not much I can say, for have undertaken to live on close terms with nonsense.

The "Nonsense" of God is wiser than men, Hiram. God is MUCH BIGGER than mere human "contradiction." Your god is too small!

...that said, I, too, agree w/ Bishop Wolf's decision---although I think even she understated the circumstances! As Episcopalians, we're definitely "Christ-followers" . . . but I think Ann Redding, and Muslims, are too.

But we also assert CHRIST IS GOD (the Second Person of the Trinity).

On that point, we and Muslims must---for now---part company.

Anonymous said...

Dear Elizabeth+,

I see no possible way of being a devout Christian and a Muslim simultaneously. The reality of the Holy Trinity, among many, many other realities, places an insurmountable bar between Islam and Christianity as it does between Judaism and Christianity. I believe your big heart makes you want to find a way for people to be together, but I'd rather people be together in the integrity of their differences than through a syncretism that does a disservice to Islam and to Christianity.

Also, I would strongly dispute the clericalism inherent in the idea that the ordained have a different responsibility to the Church than the laos. In the Baptismal Covenant, we've all promised, lay and clerical orders, to follow in the Apostle's Teaching and Fellowship, in the Breaking of the Bread and in the Prayers. I missed the part of the Apostle's Teaching that Mohammed is a prophet or that Jesus was not the Son of God and the Word made flesh. It's something we've all promised to believe and live.

Dr. Redding ceased being a Christian when she denied the divinity of Christ and the Holy Trinity in whose name she was baptized. It's only appropriate that she be deprived of exercising leadership in a faith she has abandoned, as it would be appropriate to excommunicate a lay person who converted to Islam or Judaism. Not as a punishment, but as an acknowledgment of the reality of their choices. You cannot discern the Body and Blood of the Resurrected Jesus in the Sacrament if you don't believe He was divine or resurrected.


David said...

is it not possible that essentially the heart of Ann's inhibition is a reflection of the particular chrisms and vocation of Christian priesthood, rather than the discrepencies of divergent details between the two faith traditions?

hiram wrote
'But if the law of non-contradiction is not valid, then to kill someone in the name of Jesus is the same as giving that person a drink of water.'

brother hiram, with all respect I had rarely seen a dualisticly rationalized argument which so clearly illustrates the esential lie of dualism within the kingdom of God.

to kill in the name of God is hineous enough, but to be unable to
distinguish between offering a drink of water and ending a life IMHO is grounds for a sanity hearing.

Scott+s witness to Ann's heart- integrity is enough for me- if only knowing what i do of Scott+s integrity from this medium. 'By their fruits ye shall know them-' my sense is that Ann's passionate intelligence will continue to be a gift to the Church, if we leave our hearts open to hear her.

Thank-you Elizabeth for this forum.
Thank-you Scott for your witness.
Prayers ascending for our sister Ann.


Dăhvēd Ặūstēn Ặyān Sācōr said...

An honest question. How long has Ann+ been in Seattle? The reason that I ask is because I have a recollection of a woman priest in Seattle when I was there in seminary from 1986 to 1990. Her name, I am sure, was also Ann, and she was very controversial. She was rector of a parish and was in a dispute with the Ordinary.

It was one of those situations where you walk away shaking your head about how nuts the whole thing was. She came and spoke at a forum at the seminary and my only real memory of the whole affair was I disagreed with her.

Anyone from Seattle recall this priest? I almost believe that this is the same person, but OCICBW...

Lynn said...

Hiram, I must ask - how did Hinduism get into this discussion? And killing someone in the name of the Prince of Peace was, is and always will be a human idea, not one of God. God asks for our hearts, and has always allowed us to give them in a voluntary way.

That said - Rev. Holmes is not a private citizen in the church. She needs to make her final decision (even if it is to hold fast) without the pressures of the priesthood.

(Fr. Scott sent me here, good discussion).

Hiram said...

Jim said, “So to propose a ‘law of non-contradiction rule’ judging another person's heart without knowing the person seems to me entirely wrong.”

I am not judging her heart, I am evaluating her statements (and the Rev Kaeton’s as well) – what the Rev Redding said about being both a Christian and a Muslim is flat-out nonsense. The only way that one could claim to be both a Christian and a Muslim is to so radically redefine both religions so that the average member of either faith would not recognize the faith they profess. Either Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity incarnate as a human being, or he is not. There is no middle ground. Muslims say that Jesus is the second greatest prophet, but they deny with every fiber of their being that God is Triune. If you say the Apostles or Nicene Creeds with any degree of integrity, you assert the reality of the Trinity and of the Incarnation.

David said, “brother hiram, with all respect I had rarely seen a dualisticly rationalized argument which so clearly illustrates the essential lie of dualism within the kingdom of God. to kill in the name of God is hineous enough, but to be unable to distinguish between offering a drink of water and ending a life IMHO is grounds for a sanity hearing.”

David, I have to admit I am clueless as to what you mean by saying “the essential lie of dualism within the kingdom of God.”

That, however, is neither here nor there. I think that you missed a critical part of my statement: “IF the law of non-contradiction is not valid, then to kill someone in the name of Jesus is the same as giving that person a drink of water.”

The law of non-contradiction says that statement A and its opposite cannot be true at the same time and in the same way. My bank account cannot simultaneously have $327.58 and $0.00 in it. Five minutes from now, I might make a withdrawal, but at any given time, it has a fixed amount in it.

But if you say that the law of non-contradiction does not hold (I do not know how one could, but there are people who do), then I might say that it is loving to kill people randomly, and there is nothing you can say to me to prove otherwise. If A and non-A are both true, even if contradictory, then anything is possible.

JCF, I think that you are referencing 1 Corinthians 1, in which Paul asserts that the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of God. He is speaking of the cross and Jesus’ atoning death upon it. There are still many people who think that Jesus dying for our sins is foolishness (Just ask the Rev Ed Bacon).

God is certainly bigger than I or anyone can grasp – but he has spoken in his Word, and we must hold to what he has said. It is my conviction that Christianity is a revealed religion, not simply the product of human reflection upon experience. (Although we must think – hence my appeal to the laws of reason, which is usually much extolled by Episcopalians – unless it gets in the way of what they want to do, it would seem…)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I can't type for very long but I must say, Hiram, that the position you hold of absolutism is one that is respected in many parts of Western Christendom.

The genius of Anglicanism, however, is our ability to hold two very different truths together in tension.

The "law of non-contradiction" may be an important component of logic, but since when has logic had anything to do with faith?

The Incarnation and Resurrection are completely illogical, and yet you believe them, don't you?

Logic has always to do with "non-contradictions". Faith has always to do with paradox, mystery and miracle.

My reading and studying of the writings of the Buddha or the teachings of the Koran do not diminish in any way my believe in Jesus as The Christ. Indeed, I find that my Christianity is greatly enhanced by these teachings and confirm my faith in Jesus.

As an ordained priest, however, I have made certain promises and vows about how I fashion my life and live my faith as a leader in Christian community.

That means, to me, that I use my "intellect, reason and skill" in my study of the gospels.

That being said, I do believe a priest has a particular role and responsibility which would exclude a professed belief in another religious system.

I feel very, very sad for Mother Ann in the midst of this spiritual dilemma. Then again, we live with the reality of religious plurality at our cultural doorstep. God may have another spiritual path for her to travel which will work out God's purposes in the critical urgency of global peace.

Your certainty about these matters no doubt protects you from these sorts of dilemmas, Hiram. But, I fear you miss the joy of mystery and the depth of meaning that is to be found in an exploration of paradox.

You should try it sometime, my friend. It won't get you very far in Evangelical or Roman Catholic circles but it's part of the true delight in being an Anglican in its fullest, classical sense.

I understand that the bullies over at SFiF are having a field day with this. I suspect you led them here, which is fine. Absolutely.

Ah, it takes so little to amuse little minds. How kind of you to give those little minds "a little something" else to play with.

Erika Baker said...

I agree with Elizabeth here, but Hiram does have a point.

The majority of followers of Islam and Christianity do not recognise the faith they profess in a priest who has become so mystical that she can easily merge the two. The priest therefore becomes an ineffective mediator for them.

The question is whether at that point, the priest has the duty to remain within the tighter framework imposed by her faith, or whether she is right to remain a priest while challening others to think a bit deeper.

Is a priest's duty largely to God or to the people she serves?

Hiram said...

Elizabeth, I didn't lead anyone here. The folks who run SFiF don't know me from Adam. They simply know that one may find some interesting - and amazing - perspectives at this site.

The Incarnation and Resurrection are illogical, if you think that physical reality is all that exists. If, on the other hand, there is a Creator, Incarnation and Resurrection are perfectly sensible.

There is plenty of paradox and mystery in Christianity, such as the interplay of divine sovereignty and the reality of the human capacity to choose. There is the reality of "the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world" and Jesus' death on a particular day in a particular year under the high priesthood of particular men and the authority of a particular Roman governor.

Christian paradox, however, has to do with the holding together of statements and realities that are given in God's revelation in Scripture, statements that stretch human rationality. One would expect such paradoxes if we are dealing with a Creator who is far above us in every way. God tells us the truth, but he cannot tell us all the truth because we are unable to comprehend the fullness of reality. My dog knows that I love her, but she cannot comprehend all that I am - and we can know that God loves us, through his words and actions, but we cannot comprehend all that he is and does.

Christian paradox, however, does not have to do with statements made in Scripture and statements made by another faith. If one wants to say, "The Nicene Creed is true (in the sense that the Council of Nicea intended)" and also "I believe what the Koran says about Allah," that is not a paradox; that is nonsense.

When we talk about Anglicanism and its comprehensiveness, we need to remember that the Church of England is a state church and that there were and are political reasons to put up with competing and even conflicting claims. The CoE did not decide to be "comprehensive" simply as general policy purely on its own. And even the "Broad Church" of a century ago would be astonished and probably horrified by much that is said by today's "progressives."

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, it's good to know that Erika, Hiram and I all agree: One can not be an effective Christian priest and be a professed Muslim, Jew, or whatever.

We can disagree, Hiram, about what logical and what is not. That's the nature of debate.

I will continue to maintain that faith is completely illogical because it is based on things which can not be proven - like: "There is the reality of "the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world" and Jesus' death on a particular day in a particular year under the high priesthood of particular men and the authority of a particular Roman governor."

We really have no proof that there is/was an "historical Jesus." There is no "hard" evidence that he even existed.

So, much of what we believe is illogical - what I believe is my faith, and as long as I live in a democracy and not a theocracy, I could not be found guilty of my belief by a jury of my peers.

And, the CofE is comprehensive not because it is a state religion but because of the Elizabethan settlement which tried to hold together in tension the "absolute truths" of Catholicism with the "absolute truth" of the Reformation - of which you and are are heirs.

Erika Baker said...

I'm not sure I do know what I think about the possibility of being a priest with Muslim or other leanings. It was a genuine question.

I can see that you cannot remain a parish priest, but in our increasingly fundamentalist times of infantile faith, isn't there a role for a mystical priest who challenges preconceptions and who moves others to think a bit deeper?

Certainly, I and many others might feel encouraged by a church that can embrace the open end of the spectrum as well as the traditional one.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I hear you, Erika, but our ordination vows are pretty clear. I enjoy being conversant with my friends who are not Christian and I very much enjoy teaching world religions to my Confirmation Class - but I do that through the lens of being an Episcopal priest. Makes a Very Big Difference.

And, you know, I'm sure God is much, much bigger than our images of God. So, OCYCBR!

Hiram said...

Elizabeth said, "I will continue to maintain that faith is completely illogical because it is based on things which can not be proven..."

Faith is not and cannot be "completely illogical" because "it is based on things which can not be proven." Science and math, which we hold to be objective truths are also based on "things which can not be proven." If you took geometry, you learned that there are foundational axioms - things held to be true, but which can not be proven. That parallel lines never meet even at infinity is such an axiom.

Science also depends on axioms. One foundational conviction of science, which can not be proven, is that the processes we observe will continue to work in the same way and at the same rate tomorrow as they do today. One cannot prove that, but one must accept it in order to do research.

My undergraduate major was experimental psychology. We spent a lot of time on scientific method, so I am not talking through my hat.

The Christian faith, or any faith for that matter, is a logically consistent faith. Given its premises, it makes sense. There is certainly room for mystery and paradox, for God is greater than any of us.

God has given us a revelation of his character and of his desires for us in Scripture and supremely in his Son. What he has revealed sets the boundaries of what we may say and do. Our teachings need to be internally consistent, even it we cannot prove them or their basis by a strict appeal to science.

If we do not uphold the need for internal consistency, we open the door for utter nonsense, such as the opposing statements I made as examples a few comments upthread. When you appeal for justice, you are making an appeal for consistency. If you deny the need for internal consistency, you deny the need, and the possibility, of justice.

Perhaps we are using "illogical" in differing senses. But I hope that you see my point that logic and consistency is part of being a Christian. We begin with faith, but we do not make preposterous claims simply because "faith is illogical." (I am a charismatic, so I have had plenty of mystical experiences -- at the same time, I am convinced that no prophecy or tongues I speak will ever contradict God's Word.)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Of course, Hiram, faith has a certain logic all its own but you began using principles of logic to explain faith and that just doesn't cut it.

There are no simple, easy answers. No list of 10 Rules to follow or 39 Articles to which to adhere and you will have Understand It All.

Ann is on her own Path. God bless her. She can not walk it as an Episcopal Priest. God bless her.