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 (http://www.saintmarks.org) 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.