Our other African-American leader friend whose Christianity is frequently called into question...

My old mentoring priest, Rev. Ann Holmes Redding, is back in the news again, and it looks like she's in the process of being defrocked. As the Seattle Times reported today, it has been determined by a church committee that Ann, the priest who has been attempting to live in the tension between Christianity and Islam, "abandoned the Communion of the Episcopal Church by formal admission into a religious body not in communion with the Episcopal Church." Unless she renounces her ordination or Islam in the next 6 months, the church will take her collar back.

Ann's response:

"I'm saddened and disappointed that this could not be an opportunity" for the church to broaden its perspective and talk about what it means to adhere to more than one faith, Redding said.

"The automatic assumption is that if I'm one of 'them,' I can't be one of 'us' anymore." But "I'm still following Jesus in being a Muslim. I have not abandoned that."

and further down the article:

At the same time, "this is not a tragedy and I am not a victim."

"I was called to it and I said yes," she said. "I don't believe God will leave me alone in this process."

I'm really saddened by this in a variety of ways--Ann being someone I respect deeply. I've written before that I'm not sure that you can be both an Episcopal priest and a Muslim. At this point in life, I would modify that slightly to say that while I'm not sure you can be both by canon law, I'm also not sure that is a good thing. In this case, a good person is going down and being removed from our ranks, and the Episcopal church as a community hasn't had the ability to fully confront the issues that her existence has raised. I'm not convinced that we have learned any lessons about how to live in the inter-religious tension of the modern world, and still don't really have categories for those who, in following their conscience, end up outside of canonical boundaries. We're still no comprehensive church.

In heartening and related news, I just finished my favorite book of the year - Phyllis Tickle's The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why, and it gives me a little bit of hope that we emergents will be able take steps in a more truthful direction around inter-religious and inter-denominational issues. This rigid church doesn't bend quickly or easily though, and certainly not for one individual's well-being. My sense is that Ann's situation is an example of the 21st century Christian front lines going down as the rest of us jump off the boat to storm the beach...


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