PRIEST DRAWN TO ISLAM LOSES HER COLLAR FOR YEAR
Janet I. Tu, Seattle Times
The Rev. Ann Holmes Redding, a local Episcopal priest who announced
she is both Muslim and Christian, will not be able to serve as a
priest for a year, according to her bishop.
During that year, Redding is expected to "reflect on the doctrines of
the Christian faith, her vocation as a priest, and what I see as the
conflicts inherent in professing both Christianity and Islam," the Rt.
Rev. Geralyn Wolf, bishop of the Diocese of Rhode Island, wrote in an
e-mail to Episcopal Church leaders.
Redding was ordained more than 20 years ago by the then-bishop of
Rhode Island, and it is that diocese that has disciplinary authority
During the next year, Redding "is not to exercise any of the
responsibilities and privileges of an Episcopal priest or deacon,"
Wolf wrote in her e-mail. Wolf could not be reached for immediate comment.
"I'm deeply saddened, but I've always said I would abide by the
rulings of my bishop," said Redding, who met with Wolf last week.
Redding, who characterized their conversation as amicable, said the
two would continue to communicate throughout the year.
During the meeting, Redding said she took off her priest's collar and
accepted Wolf's invitation to hold it for the year.
"I understand she's holding it as an indication that we're both in
this together," Redding said.
At the end of the year, the two will revisit the issue.
"I understand that one of my options would be to voluntarily leave the
priesthood," Redding said.
At this moment, though, she is not willing to do that. "The church is
going to have to divorce me if it comes to that," she said. "I'm not
going to go willingly."
But she also doesn't completely rule it out, saying: "God will guide
me over this year."
Redding's bishop in Seattle, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner of the
Diocese of Olympia, who accepts Redding as an Episcopal priest and a
Muslim, said Wolf's decision is a good compromise.
"It's a good way to have a timeout and provide an opportunity for Ann
to continue to teach ... and at the same time take a look at her
relationship both with the Episcopal Church and the Christian faith
and Islam," Warner said.
Redding is scheduled to start teaching part time as a visiting
assistant professor at Jesuit-run Seattle University this fall. But
she will not be able to teach, preach or work at any Episcopal church
or institution during the next year, she said.
Redding, who until March was director of faith formation at Seattle's
St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, has been a priest for 23 years.
In June, she announced publicly that, for the past 15 months, she's
also been a Muslim -- drawn to the faith after an introduction to
Muslim prayers left her profoundly moved.
While her announcement perplexed many, some supported her spiritual
journey and her larger efforts to find common ground between
Christianity and Islam.
But others were critical, saying it wasn't possible to be both
Christian and Muslim. And some took issue with her being a leader
within the Episcopal Church while also professing another faith.
Some also saw Redding's announcement as another sign that the
Episcopal Church was veering too far away from Scripture, doctrine and
tradition. The Episcopal Church, which is the U.S. branch of the
worldwide Anglican Communion, is already embroiled in deep conflict
with the Communion over scriptural interpretation on issues such as
homosexuality and the ordination of women.
Redding says she understands that "the last thing the church needs to
deal with at this time is this type of doctrinal dispute. I wish it
could've been at a more convenient time. But as far as I know, I am
responding to God's will and God's timing."
For her part, Redding said she didn't feel a need to reconcile all the
differences between the two faiths but felt that at the most basic
level, they are compatible.
She believes she has not violated any of her baptismal or ordination
vows. And "since entering Islam," she said, "I have been, by my own
estimation, a better teacher, a better preacher and a better Christian."
Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or jtu @ seattletimes.com
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