SEATTLE: Priest won’t recant her faith in Islam
By Richard C. Dujardin
Journal Staff Writer
April 1, 2009
The Rev. Ann Holmes Redding, the Episcopal priest who has been told by Rhode Island Bishop Geralyn Wolf that she had until the end of March to recant her faith in Islam or face expulsion from the Episcopal priesthood, said Tuesday she still has no intention of doing so and realizes that by dawn Wednesday she may no longer be a priest.
Reached by phone as she was stepping into a language academy in Seattle where she has begun studying Arabic, Redding said she had spent part of Tuesday mourning her impending expulsion.
“There is an acknowledged sadness, because if it were not for the limited vision of one particular bishop I still might have been able to function as a priest.”
Although Redding has never ministered in Rhode Island since Bishop George N. Hunt, the then-bishop of Rhode Island, ordained her 25 years ago, she has remained, at least until now, under the jurisdiction of Rhode Island’s bishop because she has never changed her canonical residence.
Bishop Wolf – who plans to release a statement on Wednesday – initially called Redding back from Seattle in 2007 after learning, at a bishop’s meeting, that Redding had converted to Islam while continuing to serve in the Olympia, Wash., diocese as an Episcopal priest. Redding’s unusual step did not seem to raise the ire of the then-bishop of Olympia, who called her move innovative.
Bishop Wolf – who plans to issue a statement on Redding on Wednesday – said she became particularly concerned because Redding had publicly recited the Shahada, the statement of belief that is at the cornerstone of becoming a Muslim and that she was attending prayer services at a mosque in Seattle.
Bishop Wolf has repeatedly insisted that such a melding of two faiths is impossible because of key differences between the two particularly on such things as belief in the incarnation and belief in Jesus as the only-begotten son of God. After initially placing Redding on a year-long suspension from priestly duties that lasted an additional two months to give her time to reconsider, she warned Redding in September that she had six months to recant or be deposed.
On Tuesday, Redding said she still sees herself as both Muslim and Christian and sees no reason to change.
“I am Muslim and I am a Christian and Episcopalian,” she said. “I will continue to follow the path that God has called me.”
Redding said she fully expects that when she rises Wednesday sometime between dusk and dawn, she will recite the first of the five prayers that the faith requires Muslims to recite each day. She will also gather at the local mosque for community prayer services, and on the weekend, visit a local Episcopal parish for Christian worship.
“I know that not all places are happy with my presence,” she said. “This is not about making people uncomfortable or making them feel their spaces are being violated. So I go to places where people recognize me as a Christian.”
On Thursday, the day after her 25th anniversary of her ordination to the priesthood, Redding marked the anniversary with a book signing celebrating the publication of a new book, Out of Darkness Into Light, that she had co-authored, looking at the Koran from Jewish, Christian and Muslim perspectives. On Wednesday evening she is expected to be the subject of a profile on CNN.
Ruth Meteer, communications officer for the Diocese of Rhode Island, said Bishop Wolf was waiting until the last minute to see if Redding changed her mind, and will release a statement on Wednesday.