April 3rd, 2009
09:52 AM ET

Defrocked for too much faith

Ann Holmes Redding on her faith.
Ann Holmes Redding on her faith.

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Patrick Oppmann
CNN Seattle Producer

It’s not always easy reconciling your life with your religion.

Ann Holmes Redding knows all about that.

Until yesterday Redding was an Episcopal minister. She was defrocked by the church - but not for lack of faith, exactly.

That’s because Redding is both a practicing Christian - and Muslim.

When I met Redding she said her double faith allowed her “to see the same mountain from different points.”

She became interested in Islam during an interfaith service in Seattle three years ago where she worked as a minister.

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Redding saw similarities in the way both religions worshipped one God and she was drawn to how Muslims “surrendered themselves” to their faith.

While Christianity worships Jesus as the Son of God, Islam sees him as one of many prophets. In fact, the Koran names 25 prophets, including Moses, Lot and John the Baptist. It also has an entire sura, or chapter, named for the Virgin Mary.

In both the Koran and Bible, Redding says, “Jesus does the same things. So it’s a question of how do you believe in him, not that you believe in him, but how. Jesus never asks people to believe in him as God.” Better understanding the Koran, Redding said, “made her a better Christian.”

Redding’s friends and colleagues were less enamored by her conversion to Islam.

Some she said doubted her sanity. Her church laid down an ultimatum: abandon Islam or the priesthood.

For Redding the decision was an impossible one, the same as being asked to choose between two of your children.

In a statement announcing Redding’s removal from the priesthood the church said she is a woman of “utmost integrity” but that a minister cannot be both Christian and Muslim.

It’s unclear as well how accepted Redding will be by other Muslims. When I went to an Islamic prayer service with her some of the people there said while they respect the journey she is undertaking they hope it ends with her fully converting to Islam.

One theologian said that while Redding’s case is unique for a minister it is not entirely unheard of in the wider population. Increasingly, he said, people are “mixing and matching” ideas they like from very different religions and creating their own very personalized faiths.

When you talk with Redding you can tell from her knowledge of the Bible that she was a minister for nearly 30 years and that she is deeply wounded that she has to be forced from the priesthood.

But she hopes her experience shows that two religions that are often in conflict with one another share common ground. “Christianity and Islam can live together inside of me,” she said. “Not always peaceably. There’s tension. For sure there's tension. But it suggests we can do that in larger and larger circles.”

Filed under: 360° Radar • Patrick Oppmann • Religion
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Tommy Donovan

    The biggest problem facing an individual persons faith is religion. Having to adhere strictly to outdated, badly written, heavily edited books does nothing but move you farther away from the person most of us want to be. Religion is a big business that will crush the soul from people of faith.

    April 3, 2009 at 3:21 pm |
  2. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    This is what happens when "religion" becomes commericialize--One can never have too much "faith,"---but when faith becomes a threat to those who have "little,"--things happen and happen quickly-–and sometimes not for the best. One might be defrocked by their religion--but you can never defrocked by your faith.

    April 3, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  3. Annie Kate

    Mix and match from different religions to create your own personalized religion – sounds like something the established churches would recoil in horror at. But from a human perspective I can understand it completely. Religion is very personal and one should have the ability to take what they like from different religions – we all worship the same Supreme Being despite what name we use.

    April 3, 2009 at 1:55 pm |
  4. Javon-Daytona Beach, Fl

    I understand her philosophy, but isn't Jesus being the son of God the central dogma of Christianity? So preaching otherwise would contradict that.

    April 3, 2009 at 1:23 pm |
  5. Slappy

    Nothing new here. Satan enters the church on a daily basis through folks like her.

    April 3, 2009 at 12:55 pm |
  6. Teresa, OH

    And this is how we start new religions. Little of this, little of that....

    All religions have some wonderful basic ideas. I can understand
    what Ms. Redding is saying, but unfortunately church goers have a one sided opinion on their beliefs. In the christian walk, most people might think Ms. Redding is under attack from satan ... meaning confused.

    If most of the Christian faith believes Jesus is God/ Son of, in part... and Islam only believes Jesus is a prophet there is a true fundamental difference.

    It sounds to me like Ms. Redding would fit best in the Islam faith
    and surrender herself.

    April 3, 2009 at 12:51 pm |
  7. Jessi

    "Jesus never asks people to believe in him as God."

    Has this woman never read the Bible from which she teaches?

    John 10:30-33; John 8:58; John 14:6-7; John 14:9-11...those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. To question one's faith or convert is one thing, but to claim to be a "Christian", or a follower of Christ, and make such an inaccurate statement that it baffles me. I mean, I know atheists who can't stand the religion and even THEY know that her statement isn't remotely accurate.

    Perhaps she is right, though, at least semantically. Jesus never "asked". These aren't interrogative statements, rather they are declarative statements of fact.

    April 3, 2009 at 12:12 pm |
  8. Kristen-Oakland,CA

    An undiagnosed Unitarian Universalist!!!
    Come over to our side where ALL religions, faiths, spiritualities and beliefs are welcome.

    April 3, 2009 at 12:04 pm |
  9. alex

    These days??? Nothing new

    April 3, 2009 at 11:45 am |
  10. S Callahan

    There is a story in the Bible (God's directed word) about the fig tree...and the point is ...no matter what way you go to get to God you can't circumvent the path...yes you can have communion with God in many ways but...the only way to live with God eternally is through Jesus. You can't excuse it....God tells us he gave everything (Jesus) that he might have our love (see Romans 8:31,33). He did not sacrifice his son vainly, but because his love is so deep for us he allowed his son to be an exact representation of who he is (Hebrew 1:3) not as a prophet but as God himself in the flesh.. He tells us, if you recieve the gift of Jesus you recieve me (1John 2:23). With that said, I can't judge her, that is God's role it's our (human) job to love one another.

    April 3, 2009 at 11:27 am |
  11. Alyzabeth

    Wow. What ignorance grows in the Christian community these days.

    April 3, 2009 at 11:21 am |
  12. carl hood

    As a former united methodist minister I have personally known ministers who were also active members of their local synagogues without any problems. This is discrimination, pure and simple. Shame on the episcopal church, usually a leading progressive christian voice, for being so narrowminded on this one.

    April 3, 2009 at 11:11 am |
  13. Kristen-University Park, PA

    That makes no sense to me. You either believe Jesus is the son of God or he isn't. Believing Jesus is the son of God and believing he is only a prophet are completely different. I'm sorry but when I go to church I want my minister to believe whole heartedly in what she/he preaches. Not straddling on some middle line.

    April 3, 2009 at 11:09 am |
  14. Eric Z

    I am a Christian and i have no problem with a minister who multi faith. It gives the minister a better undersanding of who God is and what Gods message is. Islam and Christianity worship the same God. We Christians call him God and Muslims call him Allah.

    April 3, 2009 at 10:40 am |