The Rev. Ann Redding Holmes, Islamopalian priest, answers questions from the public:
Q: Do you believe in the divinity of Christ? And if you don’t believe in original sin, is there any significance at all to Christ’s crucifiction? Your educational background and career notwithstanding, what beliefs do you hold that qualify you as a Christian?
A: I believe that Jesus is divine in the same way in which all humans are related to God as children of God. Jesus is different in degree, not kind; that means that he shows me most fully what it means to be in total submission to and identification with God. The significance of his crucifixion is that it is the ultimate surrender, and the resurrection–both his and as it is revealed in the lives of his disciples–shows us that God makes life out of death. That is the good news to me and it is salvation. I don’t think God said, “Let me send ths special person so that I can kill him for the benefit of the rest of humanity.” That’s not the kind of sacrifice I think that God desires. “The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:18) Jesus’ sacrifice leads to our own. I do not have to qualify to be a Christian; it is a matter of the invitation and grace of God.
Translation: No. I am a New Ager on the divinity of Christ. There is no real significance to Christ’s death, which changes nothing. I’m a Christian because I say I am.
Q: 1. By believing in the Muslim Allah, you are denying the divinity of Jesus Christ – thereby not having the faith required for salvation. How do you reconcile these differences? 2. Muslims have a particular view of Jesus (they believe he was a great prophet, but not the Son of God), but what do Christians believe about Muhammad? The Old Testament promises a Savior and hints at the one who is to pave the way for him (John the Baptist), but makes no mention of another messenger to follow Jesus nor does Jesus teach of another who should come after him. How does belief in Muhammad as a prophet of God coincide with the Christian faith?
A: First of all, there is only One God; calling God Allah does not change that reality for me. Also, belief in that One God doesn’t mean that I can’t recognize Jesus as being unique in his relationship to that One God. (Please see answer above to Matt.) Neither Judaism nor Christianity closes off God’s power to reveal continually divine reality through prophetic witness in our lives and throughout time. (As I have read, the first person after his wife, Khadijah, to recognize Muhammad’s calling as a prophet of God was her Christian cousin, Waraqah.) God doesn’t withhold from any of us the way to God.
Translation: God is a construct in my mind, rather than an objective reality; therefore, I get to define him.
Q: I respect your views expressed here towards the Muslim faith; however, one must understand Qur’an to truly understand what religion Islam really is. I know both Qur’an and Bible and they are in no way in shape or form compatible to each other. One needs only to compare what Jesus said in Matthew 5:21-22 to Qur’an 47:4. How do you reconcile these differences?
A: I am not trying to reconcile specific passages in the Bible and the Qur’an, in part because I know that we can find apparent contradictions within the Bible and the Qur’an, not to mention between them. I will continue to study the Bible and the Qur’an for the rest of my life and still will not be able truly to understand them. What I am trying to do is to live their message as I do understand it and to pray to be shown the truth.
Translation: I don’t truly understand either the Bible or the Koran. Despite that lack of understanding, I am fully capable of pronouncing each faith wrong in its belief that there are no contradictions in their respective Scriptures. That’s because my reason reigns supreme over every form of supposed “divine revelation.”
Q: How do you reconcile holding a position of ministerial leadership in a church that believes in a trinitarian God and the divinity of Christ (assuming the Episcopal / Anglican church hasn’t discarded those beliefs too), while worshipping in a faith that denies both?
A: My identity as an ordained leader in the Episcopal Church depends upon the judgement of those whose authority I have promised to obey. I will abide by their judgments. I have reviewed the vows of the baptismal covenant and the vows I took as a priest many times since I entered Islam. I am not violating those vows by my own estimation. If the Church disagrees with me, as I said, I will abide by their judgments.
My understanding of the doctrines of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ have been evident in my sermons and in my teachings. I certainly am not saying that all Christians or all Episcopalians will agree with me. But I am well within the range of the opinions of faithful Christians over the years.
I’m sorry that I cannot really do justice to this question (or any of them) here.
Translation: Vows? I don’t need no stinking vows! I am the ultimate authority about my own religion. I mean, I reject the Trinity and the divinity of Christ, and yet my bishop thinks I’m the bee’s knees. What more do I need?
And as for that last statement, she has no idea….