The Episcopal Church has defrocked Ann Holmes Redding, the Seattle Episcopal priest who announced in 2007 that she is both Christian and Muslim.

Share story

The Episcopal Church has defrocked Ann Holmes Redding, the Seattle Episcopal priest who announced in 2007 that she is both Christian and Muslim.

Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island, who has disciplinary authority over Redding, informed the priest of her decision in a letter today.

Wolf found Redding to be “a woman of utmost integrity and their conversations over the past two years have been open, honest and respectful,” according to a press release from the Diocese of Rhode Island.

“However, Bishop Wolf believes that a priest of the Church cannot be both a Christian and a Muslim.”

“I am very sad,” Redding had said Tuesday. “I’m sad at the loss of this cherished honor of having served as a priest.”

She also said she was sad at what seems to her to be a narrow vision of what the church accepts.

Redding, who had formerly served as director of faith formation at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral on Capitol Hill, announced in June 2007 that for more than a year, she had also been a Muslim — drawn to the faith after an introduction to Muslim prayers moved her profoundly.

It was an announcement that perplexed many, though Redding said she didn’t feel a need to reconcile all the differences between the two faiths, believing that at the most basic level they are compatible.

Redding’s defrocking — formally called deposition — comes almost 21 months after Bishop Wolf first told the priest to take a year to reflect on her beliefs.

After Redding remained firm in her belief that she was called to both faiths, Bishop Wolf said in fall 2008 that a church committee had determined that the priest “abandoned the Communion of the Episcopal Church by formal admission into a religious body not in communion with the Episcopal Church.”

Wolf barred Redding from functioning as a priest for the next six months, and said that unless Redding resigned her priesthood or denied being a Muslim during that time, the bishop would have a duty to defrock her.

Since Redding has neither renounced her orders nor withdrawn from the Muslim faith, Wolf decided to depose her, effective today.

In the nearly two years since Redding made the announcement of her dual faiths, she’s become a symbol of sorts to various groups.

To some, Redding’s an embodiment of how more people seem to be drawing from different faiths these days — including a recently elected Episcopal bishop in Michigan who practices Buddhist meditation. They see her story as a call to the church to be more open to such people.

In Christianity and Islam, while “there are streams of tradition that are mutually exclusive, there are also streams that are not mutually exclusive,” said Eugene Webb, professor emeritus of comparative religion at the University of Washington. “Ann is exploring those.”

It would be a good thing, Webb said, if more churches allowed for such exploration since it’s “going to take place one way or the other. It might be better to wait and see what comes of them, rather than decide in advance that it wouldn’t be fruitful.”

But to others, Redding is an example of what they see as a church that has strayed too far from its doctrinal and historical center.

The Rev. Kendall Harmon, the canon theologian with the Diocese of South Carolina who also runs the traditionalist blog TitusOneNine, said Redding should be commended, on one level, for having the integrity to be upfront about what she believes.

But what’s at stake is central to the church, he said. “To be a Christian is to be a Trinitarian and worship Jesus. If we’re not clear on that, we have nothing to offer in our witness.”

Though Muslims regard Jesus as a great prophet, they do not see him as divine and do not consider him the Son of God.

Redding does not believe that God and Jesus are the same, but rather that God is more than Jesus. And she believes that Jesus is the Son of God insofar as all humans are the children of God, and that Jesus is divine, just as all humans are divine — because God dwells in all humans.

Harmon points to the contrast between the Rhode Island bishop’s discipline of Redding, and the position held by the former, now retired bishop of the Olympia Diocese in Western Washington who said he regarded Redding’s dual faith as exciting in its interfaith possibilities.

“We are internally incoherent on a massive scale,” Harmon said. “What does it say about a church that you can be in Rhode Island and have that treatment, and be in Olympia and have another treatment, if it has to do with something this central?”

Current Olympia Diocese Bishop Greg Rickel has said that while he supports Redding on a personal level, he agrees with Wolf’s position.

Redding says people are entitled to their opinions about her.

She doesn’t believe she’s guilty of the charge against her: that she “abandoned the Communion of the Episcopal Church.”

Just because she became a Muslim, “that is not an automatic abandonment of Christianity,” she says. “For many, it is. But it doesn’t have to be.”

Redding understands that most people regard the faiths as mutually exclusive. “I just don’t agree.”

In any case, Redding is moving on.

She’s co-written a book, just published, called “Out of Darkness Into Light: Spiritual Guidance in the Quran with Reflections from Christian and Jewish Sources.”

More than 200 friends showed up at Town Hall Seattle last week to mark the book’s publication, the 25th anniversary of her ordination as an Episcopal priest, and to celebrate “her movement into the next phase of ministry as both Christian and Muslim.”

Redding is starting to write her memoirs and hopes to get a contract.

And she’s working to establish Abrahamic Reunion West, a nonprofit institute to bring together the Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

And the rest of it?

“As frightening as it is,” she said, “I’m willing to let God be in charge of this path of mine.”

Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or