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The One-Woman Ecumenical Movement

June 18th, 2007 | 2 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

"Episcopal Church Appoints First Openly-Muslim Bishop!It is now apparently only a matter of time, as an Episcopalian priest has revealed that she thinks of herself as both a Muslim and a Christian.

Ann Holmes Redding, a priest formerly associated with St. Mark's Cathedral in Seattle, contends:

"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.

My brother is perplexed that Christians might find this sort of adhering to contradictory beliefs strange:

Well, which is stranger? Believing that one can be totally Christian and Muslim, or believing that one can be totally human and divine?

For kicks, I'll answer it:  the former.  Christianity and Islam have ideas that contradict each other.  They say different things about Jesus.  To be both would necessitate thinking that "The sky is blue" and "The sky is not blue" are both true at the same time (unless, of course, one wishes to join Rev. Redding and ignore the intellect entirely).

But Christianity contends that two natures--a divine and human--can both exist in the same substance.  There is no clear contradiction here, as there is above.  The difference is that the above is Rev. Redding is attempting to do the logically impossible, while Christianity purports something that may not even be improbable, depending upon the sort of thing a "person" is.

While Redding's bishop may find "the interfaith possibilities" of Redding's situation "exciting," Redding has undercut what both religions, and all humans, care so deeply about:  the possibility of knowing the truth.  By claiming to hold contradictory positions, Redding reduces her faith to her experiences and emotions.  Yet in doing so, she may manage to bring Islam and Christianity together in a way she never expected:  by causing them both to reject her approach and cling all the more to the truth claims that make each respective religion unique.

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.