A Left-Wing Priestess for Allah
By Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | June 25, 2007
A Seattle priest has become a Muslim while also retaining her clergy status in the Episcopal Church. Her local bishop has described the development as “exciting.” “I look through Jesus and I see Allah,” explained the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding to the “Seattle Times”, which reported that Redding puts on her Islamic headscarf on Fridays and her clerical collar on Sundays. She has denounced Christianity as a “world religion of privilege.” But she still sees Jesus as her Savior, even if not divine, and plans to remain both a priest and an Episcopalian.
Bishop Vincent Warner of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia told the Seattle Times that Redding’s embrace of Islam has not been controversial in his diocese. Redding, who has been a priest for over 20 years, announced her new joint religious affiliation in an interview with the Diocese of Olympia’s newspaper.
“I was following Jesus and he led me into Islam, and he didn’t drop me off at the door,” Redding told the “Episcopal Voice,” “He’s there too.” Making no effort to disguise its topic, the article in the diocesan newspaper carried pictures of both a cross and an Islamic crescent, with the headline, “On Being Christian and Muslim.” The story was buried in the middle of the newspaper, on page 9, as though unexceptional.
Until recently, Redding was director of faith formation at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, from which she was laid off because of budget cuts. The cathedral dean insists, believably, that Redding’s conversion to Islam was not a problem. She now worships both at the Al Islam Center of Seattle and at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church. This Fall, Redding will begin teaching graduate courses in theology at Seattle University, where she also hopes to start an institute on the “Abrahamic faith traditions.”
“I want to concentrate on the three Abrahamic faiths because I believe our dysfunction has led to killing and intolerance and war,” Redding shared in an interview with the Seattle Times’ blog. “I think we need to begin with one another.”
Redding recounted that friends tell her “you just glow” ever since her conversion to Islam. “Let’s see how big God really is,” she explained of her joint religious affiliation.
Redding rejects the Christian doctrine about Christ’s divinity. But she still believes that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, which Islam rejects. Both Christianity and Islam believe that Jesus was born of a virgin. Arguably, Redding’s faith in the virgin birth and resurrection place her closer to Christian orthodoxy than many of her left-wing Episcopal clergy colleagues!
“Of course, my church has the power to say that I can no longer function as a priest because of my embrace of Islam,” Redding admitted to the Seattle Times blog. “Earlier in my ministry, my identity as a woman caused some authorities to decide that I should not function as a priest. To give up my ordained ministry would cause me great sorrow, but no one can take away my baptism or my relationship to Jesus.”
In fact, Redding well knows that the current leadership of the Episcopal Church, especially in her left-wing diocese, is more likely to salute than condemn her enthusiastic profession of multicultural religious diversity. As she described, “In the Episcopal Church, as in Islam, there is a strong tradition of using one’s mind in living a life of faith.”
Redding insisted that she has “reviewed the vows of the baptismal covenant and the vows I took as a priest many times since I entered Islam” and saw nothing contradictory. She pointed out that her rejection of the Trinity and Christ’s divinity has been evident in her sermons and teachings for a long time and is “well within the range of the opinions of faithful Christians over the years.”
After watching an Islamic preacher at her Episcopal cathedral, Redding was profoundly moved by his intense prayer and visible surrender to Allah. “It wasn’t about intellect,” she told the Seattle Times. “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.” Another Muslim leader subsequently taught an interfaith class at the cathedral and chanted an Islamic prayer that Redding began to repeat herself. In March 2006 she professed for the first time the Islamic creed that God is one and Mohammed is his prophet.
Redding reports that she remains close to Jesus and his suffering, but she is striving to become closer to Mohammad. “I’m still getting to know him,” she said.
One of Redding’s Episcopal colleagues has hailed her as a “bridge person” between two great faiths. But Redding’s bridge does not join two religions. It is an escape route out of the collapsing gothic castle that is left-wing Episcopalianism, where priests can deny the tenets of their historic faith and still be acclaimed by their bishop and clerical colleagues.
Unsurprisingly, Redding was more moved by the chants of Muslim preachers in her Episcopal cathedral than by the vacuous social justice sermons and diversity seminars that undoubtedly emanated from its pulpit Sunday after Sunday. Her conversion to Islam is no special compliment to Mohammad but rather a sad reflection of left-wing Christianity’s spiritual implosion.