Rev. Ann Holmes Redding at Seattle mosque (Courtesy Seattle Times)
SEATTLE – A veteran Episcopal priest says she became a Muslim just over a year ago and now worships at a mosque Fridays – but that hasn’t stopped her from donning her white collar Sunday mornings.
“I am both Muslim and Christian, just like I’m both an American of African descent and a woman. I’m 100 percent both,” Rev. Ann Holmes Redding told the Seattle Times.
Redding, a priest for more than 20 years, until recently was director of faith formation at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, the paper reported. Now, she’s telling the world about her adherence to Islam, provoking bewilderment from Christians and Muslims.
Kurt Fredrickson, director of the doctor of ministry program at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., told the Times there are “tenets of the faiths that are very, very different.”
“The most basic would be: What do you do with Jesus?”
Fredrickson explained that while Christians consider Jesus Christ to be God, Muslims regard him as only a prophet.
Redding, 55, doesn’t think it’s necessary to resolve all of the contradictions, arguing even people within Christianity can’t agree on all the details.
“So why would I spend time to try to reconcile all of Christian belief with all of Islam?” she asked. “At the most basic level, I understand the two religions to be compatible. That’s all I need.”
The Seattle paper said Redding plans to begin teaching the New Testament this fall as a visiting assistant professor at Seattle University, a Catholic school.
She told the Times she felt a call to Islam that she could not explain.
“It wasn’t about intellect,” Redding said. “All I know is the calling of my heart to Islam was very much something about my identity and who I am supposed to be.
“I could not not be a Muslim.”
Redding’s embrace of Islam has been affirmed by her bishop, Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner, who thinks the interfaith possibilities are exciting.
She has been accepted by the mosque she regularly attends, the Al-Islam Center of Seattle. But Hisham Farajallah, president of the Islamic Center of Washington, is among the Muslim leaders who don’t understand how she can remain an Episcopalian.
Being both Muslim and Christian ? “I don’t know how that works,” he told the Times.
Redding says she wants to tell her story to help ease religious tensions and hopes some day to create an institute to study Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
“I think this thing that’s happened to me can be a sign of hope,” she said.
A graduate of Brown University, she earned master’s degrees from two seminaries and received her Ph.D. in New Testament from Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
She was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1984 but has always challenged her church, calling Christianity the “world religion of privilege.”
She has never believed in the Christian doctrine of original sin, and for years she struggled with the nature of Jesus’ divinity, the Times said, concluding Jesus is the son of God insofar as all humans are the children of God, and that Jesus is divine, just as all humans are divine ? because God dwells in all humans.
At St. Mark’s, which proved to be a good fit for her, she was in charge of programs to deepen faith until she was laid off with two others in March, for budgetary reasons. The church insists the dismissal had nothing to do with her embrace of Islam.
Her Muslim journey actually began at St. Mark’s when in fall 2005 an Islamic leader gave a talk then prayed. Redding was moved as the imam seemed to surrender his whole body to God.
The next spring, another Muslim leader taught a chanted prayer in an interfaith class, which she began saying daily.
Her mother died at that time, the Seattle paper said, and “I was in a situation that I could not handle by any other means, other than a total surrender to God.”
She can’t explain why that led her to become a Muslim, but says “when God gives you an invitation, you don’t turn it down.”
She read up on Islam and made her profession of faith – the shahada – in March 2006, testifying there is only one god, Allah, and that Mohammad is his messenger.
The Muslim requirement of praying five times daily has given her the deep connection to God she yearned for, she says.
When she prays on other occasions, her prayers are neither uniquely Islamic nor Christian but private talks with Allah or God, names she uses interchangeably.
“It’s the same person, praying to the same God,” she contends.
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