“I am both Muslim and Christian”

Shortly afternoon on Fridays, the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding ties on a black headscarf, preparing to pray with her Muslim group on First Hill. On Sunday mornings, Redding puts on the white collar of an Episcopal priest. She does both, she says, because she’s Christian and Muslim.

Redding, who until recently was the director of faith formation at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral; has been a priest for more than 20 years. Now she’s ready to tell people that, for the last 15 months, she’s also been a Muslim — drawn to the faith after an introduction to Islamic prayers left her profoundly moved.

Her announcement has provoked surprise and bewilderment in many, raising an obvious question: How can someone be both a Christian and a Muslim?

But it has drawn other reactions too. Friends generally say they support her, while religious scholars are mixed. Some say that, depending on how one interprets the tenets of the two faiths, it is, indeed, possible to be both. Others consider the two faiths mutually exclusive.

“There are tenets of the faiths that are very, very different,” said Kurt Fredrickson, director of the doctor of ministry program at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. “The most basic would be: What do you do with Jesus?”

Christianity has historically regarded Jesus as the son of God and God incarnate, both fully human and fully divine. Muslims, though regard Jesus as a great prophet, do not see him as divine and do not consider him the son of God.

“I don’t think it’s possible” to be both, Fredrickson said, just like “you can’t be a Republican and a Democrat.”

Redding, who will begin teaching the New Testament as a visiting assistant professor at Seattle University this fall, has a different analogy: “I am both Muslim and Christian, just like I’m both an American of African descent and a woman. I’m 100 percent both.”

Redding doesn’t feel she has to resolve all the contradictions. People within one religion can’t even agree on all the details, she said. “So why would I spend time to try to reconcile all of Christian belief with all of Islam?

“At the most basic level, I understand the two religions to be compatible. That’s all I need.”

She says she felt an inexplicable call to become Muslim, and to surrender to God — the meaning of the word “Islam.”

“It wasn’t about intellect,” she 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 situation is highly unusual. Officials at the national Episcopal Church headquarters said they are not aware of any other instance in which a priest has also been a believer in another faith. They said it’s up to the local bishop to decide whether such a priest could continue in that role.

Redding’s bishop, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner, says he accepts Redding as an Episcopal priest and a Muslim, and that he finds the interfaith possibilities exciting. Her announcement, first made through a story in her diocese’s newspaper, hasn’t caused much controversy yet, he said.

Some local Muslim leaders are perplexed.

Being both Muslim and Christian — “I don’t know how that works,” said Hisham Farajallah, president of the Islamic Center of Washington.

But Redding has been embraced by leaders at the Al-Islam Center of Seattle, the Muslim group she prays with.

“Islam doesn’t say if you’re a Christian, you’re not a Muslim,” said programming director Ayesha Anderson. “Islam doesn’t lay it out like that.”

Redding believes telling her story can help ease religious tensions, and she hopes it can be a step toward her dream of creating 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.

Writer: Janet I. Tu, Seattle Times religion reporter

Read more at: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003751274_redding17m.html

 

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