You really have to wonder about the state of a denomination when an official publication of that denomination runs a story trumpeting as something to be celebrated the apostasy of one of its clergy. That would be Episcopal Voice (which apparently is an edition of Episcopal Life specifically for western Washington state) and the Rev. Dr. Ann Redding of Seattle, who has just accepted a position as a theology professor at the Jesuit-run Seattle University:
A little more than a year ago, the Rev. Dr. Ann Holmes Redding found herself at the doorway of a new world, Islam, and wasn’t quite sure how she got there. As she reflected on her journey, she realized Jesus was her guide. Now both a practicing Muslim and an Episcopal priest, Redding shares her thoughts on how the two faiths inform each other.
“The way I understand Jesus is compatible with Islam,” Redding explains, “and although there are Christians and Muslims who think I must convert from one to the other, the more I go down this path the more excited I am about both Christianity and Islam.”
In order to be a “practicing Muslim,” one must repudiate any semblance of belief in Jesus Christ as divine, as risen, or as crucified for the sin of the world. No problem, says Dr. Redding:
“We Christians, in struggling to express the beauty and dignity of Jesus and the pattern of life he offers, describe him as the ‘only begotten son of God.’ That’s how wonderful he is to us. But that is not literal,” she continues. “When we say Jesus is the only begotten one, we are saying he’s unique in some way. Islam says the same thing. He’s the only human aside from Adam who is directly created by God, and he’s different from Adam because he has a human mother. So there’s agreement—this person is unique in his relationship to God.” Christianity also says that we are all part of the household of God and in essence brothers and sisters of Jesus. Muslims take the figurative language of “only begotten,” make it concrete and contradict it: God “neither begets nor is begotten.”
“I agree with both because I do want to say that Jesus is unique, and for me, Jesus is my spiritual master,” Redding says. “Muslims say Mohammed is the most perfect. Well, it depends on who you fall in love with. I fell in love with Jesus a long time ago and I’m still in love with Jesus but I’d like to think my relationship with Jesus has matured.”
So what we have here is a theology professor claiming to be an adherent of both Christianity and Islam who doesn’t understand either one. I hope the Jesuits are happy having a person on their theology faculty whose grasp of theology is so weak that she thinks that sycretism between two mutually exclusive monotheistic faiths is not only possible but desirable, and whose worship blasphemes the one and degrades the other. As for the Episcopalians, once you’ve failed to discipline a John Spong for publicly repudiating every single tenet of the faith, and allow him to keep his pointy hat, what’s one more apostate in a clerical collar?
Read it all (it’s on page nine) if you can stomach it.
UPDATE: Thought I’d take a look at some of Dr. Redding’s preaching since her “conversion” to Islam. St. Mark’s, her former church, only has three. But how’s this for interesting reading:
Is there something deeper? After a sermon, a parishioner once said to me: “If you guys,” meaning the preachers, “If you guys don’t take us deeper, then what’s the point? Why bother showing up?” Thank Heaven, it’s not up to the preachers alone to take us deeper, but that comment shows that perhaps we all are yearning for something more. Let’s call it the Holy Spirit.
Being open to the Holy Spirit is easier in company, perhaps. At least She won’t corner us alone.
Furthermore, in The Color Purple, Alice Walker writes that we won’t find God in church, at least the One we’re hoping for, if we don’t bring God with us. So, maybe we come here in the hopes that some of these people have brought a little bit of God, of the Holy Spirit, with them.
So the Holy Spirit is God? I wonder what her Muslim friends would say about her affirming the deity of the Holy Spirit (her Christian friends, of course, wonder why the Holy Spirit but not Jesus)?
Chris Johnson has more commentary.