By now, most readers in the Anglican blogosphere are familiar with the story of The Rev. Ann Holmes Redding. She is an Episcopal priest in Washington State who also claims to be a practicing Muslim. Her story first appeared in the Diocese of Olympia’s newsletter.
In the article, titled “On being Christian and Muslim,” Redding made statements about Jesus Christ that are nothing short of astonishing for anyone who claims to be a Christian, but even more so for someone ordained as a Christian priest:
“I fell in love with Jesus a long time ago and I’m still in love with Jesus but I’d like to think my relationship with Jesus has matured.”
She added that what Islam does is take Jesus out of the way of her relationship with God, “but it doesn’t drop Jesus. I was following Jesus and he led me into Islam, and he didn’t drop me off at the door. He’s there, too.”
Redding says if you take your shahaddah (official entrance into Islam), saying “there is no God but God and Mohammed is the prophet of God,” with the intention of becoming a Muslim, accurately and before at least one witness, you’re a Muslim. That does not contradict anything in Christianity. She says the reverse is true for her; the renunciations and affirmations Christians make at their baptism do not contradict anything in Islam. “The renunciations [of Satan, evil powers and sinful desires] any Muslim can say,” Redding says. “The affirmations are tough for any Christian who is at all progressive because there are certain of us [Christians] who have taken these and made them in to something like fraternity hazing - you have to say these words in order to be part of the club. I see them as taking Jesus as the human example to follow toward God. Most Muslims see Mohammed rather than Jesus as the pattern of life to follow, and I do not see him as the only example. I just am not willing to put ‘onlys’ in front of all those affirmations about Jesus.
Many readers of this site know what a “listserv” is; a sizable percentage of them probably participate in one or more of them. Those who don’t know may wish to take a moment and read this explanation at Wikipedia.
There is a listserv hosted at episcopalcommunicators.org. It’s a forum for webmasters, communications directors, and the like. Yesterday the following post to the list was made by Chuck Morello. Morello is a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Virginia, Minnesota:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf Of Chuck Morello
Sent: Tuesday, June 19, 2007 9:24 AM
Subject: [talk]: “I am both Muslim and Christian”
You may have seen this headline (or similar) in your local press. I got it from an unusual blog:
http://18.104.22.168/forums/index.php?showtopic=21424 [for the “faint of heart”, It is NOT a Christian forum (it is military, so it is decidedly salty), so enter at your own risk.]
The full article is online at:
The Seattle Times Homepage
(http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/home/) has a note “In a live online Q & A at noon today, the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding will answer reader questions about being both Christian and Muslim.”
It may make for some interesting scramblings for some of us in the following days.
Thirty-four minutes later, Jim Naughton, Director of Communications for the Diocese of Washington, and editor-in-chief of the Episcopal Cafe, replied:
From: Jim Naughton [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, June 19, 2007 9:58 AM
Subject: RE: [talk]: “I am both Muslim and Christian”
I fervently hope that it will be possible to ignore this story until it slips back beneath the radar.
Canon for Communications and Advancement Episcopal Diocese of Washington/202-537-7162 Episcopal Church House / Mount Saint Alban / Washington, D. C. 20016
For those of us who have participated in this debate for the last few years, and especially for those of us who have run the blogs which have helped change the nature of this debate, it is obvious why Mr. Naughton wants to “ignore this story until it slips back beneath the radar.”
It’s because our Worthy Opponents figured out long ago how to sneak the nose of the gay agenda’s camel under the tent of mainstream Episcopalianism: Frame it in terms of civil rights and post-modern notions of tolerance and inclusion, while playing the soft but insistent background music of oppression and marginalization. But what they haven’t figured out is how to sell to that same mainstream the fact that their agenda - gutting 2,000 years of Christian teaching on sexual morality in order to devise a “Gospel” that bestows the blessings of the church on same-sex unions - at best allows, and at worst requires, a profound alteration of the lordship of Jesus Christ. There are complex reasons why this is so, but stated simply, it is because it is extremely difficult to assert on the one hand that the Scriptures don’t mean what they say about sexual morality, and on the other insist that they do mean what they say about who Jesus Christ is. Leaving open all manner of possibilities for the former requires that one also leave open all manner of possibilities for the latter. This is why the orthodox side of this debate continually insists that the real debate is not about homosexuality, but Christology - who Christ is, why He came to earth, and the nature of His revelation to us.
Mr. Naughton’s dilemma is illustrated by the complete radio silence on reappraiser blogs about this story (three weeks later, and nary a jot or tittle by Susan Russell, Elizabeth Kaeton, Louie Crew, Mark Harris, Episcopal Cafe, Simon Sarmiento, Fr. Jake…) but more clearly and succinctly by a comment on this very site, by someone posting under the name “OpenMindedAnglican”:
As someone who most likely be considered and labeled a “revisionist” by my fellow bloggers, I feel compelled to comment on this. It is appalling to me that someone who identifies themselves as a Muslim could even keep in their brain the thought of being a Christian, much less a priest. I cannot imagine any bishop allowing it either. Please do not lump me into the group of people who find this acceptable despite our different conclusions on other subjects.
OpenMindedAnglican, don’t worry: Your comment is duly noted and appreciated.
And therein lies the explanation of Mr. Naughton’s fear that this story might gain wider exposure: For what I suspect is a fairly large number of Anglicans who consider themselves open minded - folks who readily admit that they are “revisionists” - the denial of Jesus Christ as the only son of God is where they get off the bus… where they part ways with the Jim Naughtons and Ann Holmes Reddings of the church.
Mr. Naughton is a smart fellow, and he no doubt understands that if stories like Redding’s get too much press, it may cause many more open minded Anglicans to notice the startling similarities between what The Rev. Redding thinks about Christ, and what the Presiding Bishop thinks about Him. And, by extension, what Integrity, Oasis, Via Media, Claiming the Blessing, and the rest of the drivers of the left’s agenda either believe about Christ and wish to promote themselves, or are willing to tolerate in the name of sanctifying homosexuality.
In my three-plus years of doing this - running this site, corresponding with lay people, giving presentations to small groups - I have found that there are plenty of people who are none too keen on attempts to have the church bless same-sex unions, or ordain partnered homosexuals. However, there are far more who don’t get worked up about that, but begin climbing the walls whenever they hear of attempts to deny the divinity or uniqueness of Jesus Christ. Of all the stories we have posted on this site - just over 4,000 since March 2004 - none have gotten more attention, generated more traffic, or left our Worthy Opponents so flummoxed, than the ones in which Episcopal priests or dioceses have been caught red-handed tolerating and even actively promoting some form of paganism or virulent universalism.
Here’s a quick recap of just some of the more notable incidents:
- May 2004 - The Diocese of Michigan co-sponsors “Together in Faith,” a seminar featuring workshops by a witch and a trans-gendered pagan.
- October 2004 - In the Diocese of Pennsylvania, ordained Episcopal husband-and-wife priests Bill and Glyn Melnyk (who for years had moonlighted as Druid priests) ran into trouble when 815’s Office for Women’s Ministry published one of the couple’s pagan liturgies. Bill Melnyk, known in Druid circles as “Oakwyse” (and occasionally, though inexplicably, “Bran”), left the Episcopal priesthood soon afterward, to become a full-time Druid priest.
- April 2006 - Maury Johnston, an Episcopal lay leader whose articles had been published by a number of prominent blogs on the Episcopal left, turned out to be a very active pagan whose nom de coven was “Shadwynn.”
- May 2006 - The Episcopal Church Center Bookstore in New York was found to be offering a book titled “Love Spells,” which contained “...a host of tried and tested spells, potions, and rituals that will help you find out just how to bring love into your life.”
The question of whether those in the Episcopal Church who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will, under daily and intense pressure to tolerate anything but orthodox Christianity, tolerate much longer such assaults on Christ’s lordship, is also the question now before the Anglican Communion: How much heresy is it willing tolerate in the name of peace and collegiality?
In my blueprint for the future of the Episcopal Church - which, I am convinced, will predict the future of the Anglican Communion - before Katharine Jefferts Schori and David Booth Beers can run off the remaining orthodox through lawsuits and intimidation… before the “moderate” bishops’ Berlin Wall around the Unengaged Middle can be completed… before all of that, everyone from the far right to the institutionalist left will wake up and realize that the real core of this crisis is not about homosexuality, but about Jesus Christ Himself; that they understand that in rejecting the divinity and uniqueness of Christ they destroy their church; and that they lock arms at the foot of His cross to become the defenders of the faith Christ calls us to be.
Whether that will happen, of course, remains to be seen. The possibility that it will is what drives some of us here to do what we do.
So… what more can we do?
Whatever we do, we must remember that we are first and foremost Christians, and all of our words and actions must reflect that.
- Do you teach a Sunday School class? Print out page 9 of Olympia’s newsletter and spend one class discussing the implications not just of an Episcopal priest who considers herself a Muslim, but of a bishop (sworn to defend the faith) who views her beliefs not as problematic, but “exciting.”
- Are you on the vestry at your church? Print out the same article and pass it around. If you discuss it in your meeting, great; but if not, at least 11 other members of your church’s leadership are aware of what’s going.
- Schedule a meeting with your rector and give him or her a copy of the newsletter article. Ask for comments.
- Schedule a meeting with your bishop. Take along a copy of the newsletter article, and question him carefully and thoroughly about his views on this story, and his policy should something similar happen in your own diocese.
- Do you have any input on what’s published in your parish or diocesan newsletter? See about inserting a brief “news item”-type piece on The Rev. Redding and her bishop’s approval.
- Do you run a listserv, or sometimes send out emails to a large list of recipients? Copy the text of the Olympia newsletter article, and send it to your list. Include a link to this article here at Stand Firm.
- Write a letter to the editor of your diocesan newsletter, mentioning the story in Olympia.
- Do you work for a mainstream newspaper, television station, or radio station? See about getting this story featured there.
- And obviously, if you run your own blog, feature this story!
Finally, please check in on this thread and let us know what you’ve done. There is a reason Jim Naughton wants to “ignore this story until it slips back beneath the radar”... and we need to do everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen for a long, long time.