By Chuck Colson
An Episcopal Muslim?
On Friday nights, Ann Holmes Redding of Seattle puts on a black head scarf, heads to the Al-Islam Center, and prays with her fellow Muslims.
Nothing I just told you is remarkable. What’s remarkable is what I didn’t tell you: Redding is an Episcopal priest. Not an ex-Episcopal priest, mind you, but a priest, as far as she and her superiors are concerned, in good standing.
Her story is a vivid reminder of what’s really at stake in the various culture wars within Christian churches: orthodoxy.
Redding has been a priest for over 20 years. Until recently she was the director of “faith formation” at Seattle’s Episcopal cathedral, St. Mark’s. I am, as Dave Barry likes to say, not making this up.
Apparently, at the same time she was in charge of forming other people’s faith, her own was undergoing a transformation. Fifteen months ago, she became a Muslim, the result of an “introduction to Islamic prayers [that] left her profoundly moved.”
Actually, according to Redding, I should say that she also became a Muslim. As she told the Seattle Times, “I am both Muslim and Christian, just like I’m both an American of African descent and a woman. I’m 100 percent both.” So while on Friday nights she puts on a black head scarf, on Sunday mornings she wears a clerical collar.
Redding doesn’t deny that there are differences between the two faiths—she simply doesn’t think that they ultimately matter. As she put it, “at the most basic level, I understand the two religions to be compatible. That's all I need.”
There’s so much wrong here that I scarcely know where to begin, so I’ll limit myself to the obvious: There’s no inherent contradiction between being an African-American and a woman, just as there’s none in being an American of Swedish descent and a man, as I am.
However, the same cannot be said of being a Christian and a Muslim. As Kurt Fredrickson of Fuller Seminary told the paper, “there are tenets of the faiths that are very, very different,” especially regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Mahmoud Ayoub, a professor of Islamic studies at Temple, agrees. He says that “the [respective] theological beliefs [about Jesus] are irreconcilable.”
Of course, for Redding (as for too many people today), it isn’t about logic or theology: It’s about feelings. She can call herself anything she wants, but she’s only truly a Muslim if she denies Christian doctrines such as original sin, the Trinity, or the divinity of Christ. And to deny those truths is to deny the Christian faith.
Which raises an interesting question: Why is she an Episcopal priest, never mind a director of “faith formation?”
Writing at the website Get Religion, Mollie Hemmingway says that Redding’s story illustrates that the split in the Episcopal Church isn’t about homosexuality, as the media says. The former Episcopal parishes aligning themselves with African bishops aren’t leaving a denomination with gay clergy; they are leaving a denomination with non-Christian clergy.
Redding is simply an extreme example in the Episcopal Church. But sadly she represents the widespread, politically correct belief that all religions lead to the same place—a message which is not only dead wrong as a matter of logic, but one which denies Christ. In short, it is the ultimate heresy.