The headline reads “Episcopal Minister defrocked after becoming a Muslim”. I suppose it should not really come as a shock that someone would convert from one religion to another. It should not even be a shock that someone who was a minister in a Christian church would convert. It happens. What is incredible to me is that they would think that in converting from Christianity to Islam that they were really not making a change of any significance and that they thought they could still be a Christian minister and a Muslim.

Anne Holmes Redding was a minister in the Episcopal Church. Three years ago she attended an interfaith gathering and was struck by the humility of the Muslim Imam as he led chants, meditations and devotions. That started her on a journey the resulted in her conversion to Islam. You can read more about it http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/04/02/muslim.minister.defrocked/index.html For a couple of years she continued to be both a Christian minister and a practicing Muslim. For some incredible reason she saw no contradiction in this. “Both religions say there’s only one God,” Redding said, “and that God is the same God. It’s very clear we are talking about the same God! So I haven’t shifted my allegiance.” I’m sorry but this just flabbergasts me. Fortunately the Episcopal church was equally flabbergasted and required that she either recant being a Muslim or give up her ordination. She refused and was then removed as a minister.

I get it that many people think that all religions are ultimately the same and that they all worship the same god. But I also recognize that most people have never really bothered to look closely at various religions to see if this “cultural truism” is in fact true. But a minister in the Episcopal Church and most churches for that matter, has at least a Masters Degree that includes a heavy dose of Bible, Theology, and Comparative Religions.

In order to believe that she has not “changed allegiance” I can only assume that she never had an allegiance to Jesus to begin with. The understanding that Christians have of who Jesus is as Lord, fully God and fully man is in complete contradiction to what Islam teaches about Jesus.  To be a Muslim is to deny that Jesus is the Messiah. It is to deny that His death on the cross was a substitution for us and for our sins. In fact to be a Muslim is to deny that Jesus even died on the cross at all. It by implication also means that you have to deny that He rose from the grave. The Apostle Paul made it clear that without the resurrection of Jesus, we are to be pitied as people following a lie and are lying about God. (1 Corinthians 15:12-20)

Being a Christian means that you are a follower of Jesus. It is not about having a religion that meets some inner need for spiritual fulfillment through prayer and meditation. It is about an allegiance to Jesus above all else. It is a giving of your life completely and totally to Him. We can talk about God in a generic sense and people will rally around that as being a unifying idea. But we can never speak of God without making sure that we understand who that God is and that our faith is really all about Jesus. As Paul told the Philippians, it is at the name of Jesus that every knee will bow and every tongue confess, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Is there a lesson here? I think so. As followers of Christ we must be willing to stand fast on the truth of the supremacy of Jesus. It is the hill we die on. No one comes to the Father except through Him. Mohamed  is not “a way” to God. Neither for that matter is Buddha, or Krishna, or any other human being. Keep your eyes on Jesus. It is He who is the author and finisher of your faith.

Comments
  1. Kareem says:

    Dear Dan,

    Thank you for your excellent thoughts.

    As a Muslim, I agree with you that it is difficult to be a follower of Jesus and a Muslim in the confessional sense at one and the same time. The fact that our lives are sustained through our own Sun, however, does not mean that there are not other “suns” that are at the center of other religious worlds. For the majority of men, to be blinded by the brilliance of one manifestion of the Divinity, necessarily precludes recognition of any other, and yet there are those for whom a certain sense of the Sacred does indeed allow for this.

    Certainly, there are specific differences between Christianity and Islam, as well as between all the major world religions. The Qur’an does affirm Jesus as the Messiah, as well as his miraculous birth from the Virgin Mary. It apparently denies, in an verse which is rather ambiguous, the Crucifixion – and with it the Resurrection, but does affirm that Jesus was caused to ascend to Heaven. From the standpoint of Islam, the Crucifixion – even if it did occur – only appeared to kill Jesus, who as Spirit of God could not truly be killed. (This in fact is the title that the Qur’an gives Jesus “the Word of God and His Spirit which he bestowed to Mary.”) Jesus is in fact mentioned more times in the Qur’an than the Prophet Muhammad, and an entire chapter is named after the Virgin Mary. It should be no surprise then that Muslims love Jesus and honor him, without using language that would equate him in all respects with the Divinity. He is in fact seen as the Prophet of Inwardness – “the Kingdom of Heaven is within you.”

    It should be recalled that Jesus is not the incarnation of just any Person of the Trinity, but specifically of the Second Person, that is the Son of God. He was not the incarnation of the Father, but rather of the Son who is the Light of the Father. Secondly, Jesus’ full humanity is something acknowledged by all orthodox Christianity along with his full Divinity. These two points together should shed some light on the metaphysical perspective of Islam as well as its universalism. Islam emphasizes the ontological priority of the Father by saying only the Cause of the Son shoud be called God. Secondly, Islam recognizes that the Word of God cannot be limited to the historical figure of Jesus – any more than it could be limited to the Prophet Muhammad or the Quran – but that this Word has manifested in differenct religious worlds. The Qur’an contains many verses such “and to each we have sent a Prophet” and “…and to each [nation] we have give a [spritual] Way and a Method.” And cannot we interpret the words of Christ in the Gospels: “I am the Truth, the Way, and the Life” as being uttered by Jesus as the Eternal Word of God, who was in the beginning and by Whom everything was made?

    It is obvious of course that the average Muslim, like the Christian, even if he admits – by force of his very own Scripture – of a Divine Providence which encompasses other religious worlds, finds it difficult to fully embrace the other. Nor should he be called upon to do so, since in reality to follow his own religion is to follow the vertical path to God that is the heart of all Religion. For someone with a sense of the Sacred, it is simply to much to brush off the beauty and sincerity of those traditional worlds – the Hindu, Taoist, Buddhist, Islamic, and so on – at whose center the historical Jesus did not appear but in whom the Word of God must necessarily have been very present.

    With Peace,
    Kareem

  2. dhford33 says:

    Excellent post, Dan. When things like this happen, I often think that people have sanitized Christ and His gospel to the extent that it’s hard to see the difference between Christianity and Buddhism (or insert any other alleged religion of peace). I think this has been the case for quite some time – going back to our forefathers. I’m reminded of the Jefferson Bible, in which Thomas Jefferson chose to remove all references to Jesus’ divinity, miracles and ressurection. Like Jefferson, many alleged Christians are actually just deists that masquerade as Christians and situations like these expose them. It’s a travesty that we’ve exchanged the biblical Jesus for a more palatable one.

  3. Dan Lacich says:

    Kareem,
    Masaa el kheer.
    Shokran for your comments. I greatly appreciate what you say and the spirit in which you say it.
    I have often found it ironic that in a certain way, Muslims have a higher regard for Jesus than many people with a Christian background. The Muslim view on the virgin birth is one example. Large numbers of Christians have abandoned this doctrine without giving thought to what it means for their view of Jesus. In a certain way the view that Jesus did not suffer crucifixion seems to be an outgrowth of the high regard in which he is held. I think that in terms of Muslim/Christian dialogue it may well be that the view of the crucifixion is the stumbling block. As a Christian it is that act of sacrifice that makes it possible for me to have a relationship with God and have assurance of eternal life with Him.
    I have a friend who is Director of Outreach for the local Islamic Society. We often speak on these and other issues. I would enjoy being able to have similar conversations with you in the future.
    Ma’a salama
    Dan

  4. Tony C says:

    An excellent post Dan. The blurring of theological lines between religions is one of the more dangerous trends of today. In an effort to ‘coexist’ and live peacefully together on an ever shrinking planet, there are those who are promoting the philosophy there is more than one way to God, but God’s word is very clear through Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father.

    I appreciate the diplomatic manner of your post and response. It was both genuine and respectful.

  5. Al says:

    As a Christian pastor I am thankful that the Episcopal Church defrocked Ms. Redding. Jesus made it very clear that He is the only way to the Father; the Apostle Paul also made it clear that anyone who doesn’t accept this teaching should be removed. While Islam and Christianity can certainly dialogue about their faiths, God’s Word forbids the syncretism Ms. Redding attempted to indulge in.

  6. Shastri says:

    Al and Tony … the sun that rose yesterday is the same sun that rose today, and yet it also is given a different name … the same “Christ spirit” that appeared in Jesus can also reappear again another time, exactly like Christ promised that His spirit would return

  7. Dan Lacich says:

    Shastri,
    Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be with all who trusted Jesus by faith. He identified that Spirit and gave no indication that the Spirit would show up under other identities at other times. If you are saying that all the various religions are just different ways that God appears to different people then it would seem that such a God is the master of deception since the various religions of the world have major areas of disagreement that are at the core of what they believe.
    Dan

  8. Rob says:

    As a former Episcopalian I’m really quite surprised that ECUSA would defrock anyone anymore. I mean they have such a high tolerance for the bizarre that things like this novelty. In my experience, most ECUSA clergy and laity would receive news of Reddings’ sudden bireligious orientation as some delightful new spiritual fetish for everyone to embrace and discuss and blah-blah … blah-blah.

  9. Homer says:

    Dan,
    When you speak of Jesus what books of the Bible are you referring to. Is it Matthew which is Jewish School of thought, John which is Greek, Mark which I attribute to Eastern Religions, or Luke who lived culturally as a Muslim, prior to 600 A.D. These are historical facts so please specify.
    I’m not saying that all Dan, nor am I trying to disagree with you. Dan here is an example. What I am saying is people assimilate information differently. For example you are communicating through the Internet using a TCP/IP protocol. There are other protocols for example IPX or UDP that transmits data/information also. Each transfer information and have their own specialties, However the recipient of the information still gets the information.
    Here’s another example using music. Are there really bad notes in a song? I believe notes played or orchestrated simultaneously, creates beautiful harmony. Is that not true? The placement of the tones (Chords) creates modulations of tension. Is that not true? Most Americans take an antagonistic approach. It is much easier to tell someone they should be like you rather than taking the difficult path of finding the commonalities that exist between them. Abraham had two sons, Right? Did he Love one more than the other? I believe the Bible is silent but it does mention all of Abrahams Children, Right? Who are we? Are we now God?
    We are merely vessels for the spirit. We are not God! The Real question is, What would Jesus really do? Would he Love or Separate?

  10. Homer says:

    So what are you Dan? Isogete or Exogete? You didn’t say.

  11. Dan Lacich says:

    Homer,
    Homer, you seem to think that loving someone means never being able to point out differences. You present a false dichotomy when you ask would Jesus love or separate. How can I really love someone if I ignore who they really are. Jesus says that we are to love our enemies. In order to do that I must first have identified that someone is different from me. Real love is being able to love those who are different from us. Jesus made that clear. But loving someone does not mean that I ignore differences. My wife and I are very different and love one another deeply.

    As to your assessment of the Gospels, the good thing is, God gave us all four in order to give us multiple perspectives that when properly understood all point to Jesus and do not contradict in that picture. Also I think your assessment of the Gospels is rather unique and not to be found among even the most liberal of scholars. For instance, attributing Mark to eastern religions? What does that mean? What eastern religions and what examples do you give from Mark for that?
    Dan

  12. Homer says:

    Why do you automatically assume they are your enemies? How did you come to that conclussion? Why is that even a part of your thought process first?

  13. Dan Lacich says:

    Homer,
    It is a question that only has one answer not matter what I am. Everyone wants to think of themselves as an exogete, extracting God’s meaning from the text. No one I know wants to be accused of being an isogete, inserting their meaning into the text. Yet, we all come from a perspective that has an impact on our view of the text. With that said, what is the point of the question?
    Dan

  14. Homer says:

    I will submitt to your thought. Have a nice day!

  15. Homer says:

    The point is One must also consider the Historical facts of the period and based on many of the responses It didn’t appear people were doing that. It was also my opinion one should try to seek the understanding of the writer in that period and not a personal opinion. Once translated back to the original text (Greek or Hebrew) a better understanding is achieved. I really meant no harm. I apoligize for any harm or disruption. It was not my intent.

  16. Dan Lacich says:

    Homer,
    I didn’t identify anyone in particular as my enemy. The point of the illustration was that Jesus himself acknowledged that there are differences between people. The command he gave was not to ignore the differences but to love people in the midst of those differences.
    Dan

  17. Dan Lacich says:

    Homer,
    No harm at all. I agree that the goal is to understand the text in it’s context and that includes understanding the sitz en leben, or life setting of the text and author. Certainly the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic are crucial to that task. What fascinates me about this is how often I read people who assume that a more orthodox approach to scripture is heavily tainted by “opinion” and that a less than orthodox approach is somehow more academically honest. It has been my experience that the reverse is often the case.
    Dan

  18. Carol says:

    I was born into and brought up in the Episcopal church. To be honest, I am surprise that they made this confused person decide between Christianity and being a Muslim. The Episcopal church has strayed far from the Biblical teachings and has embraced everyone and everything to the extent that I would have thought they would have applauded her “openness”. When we heard a priest who was attending a recent Episcopal convention say that the Bible was not the authority, we knew we had made the right decision leaving the church. Carol

  19. Mohammad says:

    Dear Kareem and other Muslim folks,
    My name is Mohammad. I was a devout Muslim that began intensively studying Koran at the age of 7. Because of many deaths among my relatives, 3 questions always bothered me very much: Where would people go after the death, hell or heaven?
    Why am I here on this earth for? And what am I supposed to do with my life?
    I studied Koran for 7 years and memorized many parts of it. But at the end, I found the truth in Christianity and believed in the Lord Jesus as my Lord and Savior and my life was changed. As Pascal said: Every person is born with a vacuum in his heart. This vacuum can’t be filled with any other than Jesus Christ. I now pastor a little Persian Church.
    You mentioned that there might be other “suns” int the center of other religions. Well, have you ever wondered what a world would that be if there are 2 real Suns in the sky?!
    I would like to suggest all of my Muslim friend some references from Koran to ponder on. That my help them understand the differences between Christianity and Islam.
    This is a misconception to say that Muslims believe in the same one “God” as Christians believe because the attributes of the God we as Christians are talking about are totally different than the attribute of the Allah and Allan’s demands are TOTALLY different from our Lord.

    Mohammad said that “Every human being is born in a state of a pure nature; but through the influence of his parents, he may become non-Muslim.”
    “Whoever goes aright, for his own soul he goes aright; and whoever goes astray, to his own detriment he goes astray. And no bearer of a burden bears another’s burden…” (Surah 53:38)
    Koran emphasizes on the deeds of a person and strongly mentions that on the Day of judgment, one will be judged according to what he has done on the earth. “So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it and whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.” (Surah 99:7, 8)
    “Then those whose balance (of good deeds) is heavy, they will be successful. But those whose balance is light, will be those who have lost their souls; in hell will they abide,” (Surah 23:102-103).

    So you see that Allah is going to judge you one day according to your deeds. But How much good deeds should I do to get to heaven?
    That was my first question before coming to Christ.
    Christ has a solution for you. Bible teaches that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23), and we have come short of the glory of God. Jesus(as you also mentioned as Messiah) saves us from our sins by His grace and through our faith, and the Salvation is the gift of God and not by our own works so that no one can boast. We then are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works(Ephesians 2:7-9).
    I’ll promise you that Islam will never answer your question that how many good deeds is required to get to heaven. Unless the Lord reckons on us the righteousness through Jesus, we won’t have that assurance.
    You should not worry anymore! Because you are not supposed to earn it by fulfilling each and every law!
    “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight… being justified freely by his grace… Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay; but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3:20, 24, 27, 28)
    In Christianity, we appeal to the work of Christ on the cross: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed”(1 Peter2:24)
    There is nothing in us as a basis of forgiveness. Because no good thing dwells within us. (Rom 7:18)
    The only thing that is required for you to have Salvation and eternal life is that you believe in Jesus Christ by all your heart and love him as your Lord and repent from your sins!

    “Neither is there salvation in any other [than Jesus]: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
    Salvation in Islam is more like a faint hope for each Muslim. Because it is man-centered. But in Christianity the base of the Salvation is on the grace of God, and as I discussed, it is God-centered.
    So which way do you want to choose? Hoping for your Salvation or to have assurance of Salvation in Christ?

    I now know the answers to my questions:
    I’m going to go to heaven, “For God so loved the world that he sent his only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”(John 3:16)
    I have been created for a purpose in God’s image to do good works in Christ Jesus through faith (Genesis 1:26, Ephesians 2:9)

    I would like to encourage all of my Muslim friends to read the Bible and let God work in your hearts. God promised in the Bible whoever seeking Him will find Him.
    Meanwhile, please feel free to study references I gave you from Koran and compare it with what the Bible says.
    You can download a free Bible from the link below:
    http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=3086

    May the Lord show Himself to you.
    Mohammad

  20. Roddy MacLeod says:

    Dear Mohammad,

    My brother in Christ, whom I love though I have not met. Praise be to Jesus for the work that He has done in you and continues to do through you.

    The Spirit is strong in you as is evident in your wonderful writing above.

    Grace and Peace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Nothing but Jesus
    Roddy

  21. Peg says:

    Hi Dan,
    Great article and very timely. You should be receiving a trackback shortly but if not I’ve just mentioned your article here:
    http://getstarted.wordpress.com/2009/04/06/the-episcopal-church-removes-clergy-convert-to-islam/ I’ve added your blog to my blogroll… hope to become a semi-regular.

    Cheers,
    Peg

  22. Defrocking is really just formality in giving her freedom to choose which “religion” to follow. I don’t think sharing two religions is right. You either choose evil or good. You cannot serve two masters. The God of Islam maybe the same Universal God we and all other religions serve but what distinct us from them is our God has personality. He is not a “Thought”, pigment of mind or an invisible someone in the outer space who looks after us. Our God is a TRIUNE God. Father, Son (WORD) and the Spirit who already existed during creation. Our God loves us even before we were born. Our God created everything. Our God came down to die for us and save us from sin. Our God is among us right now convicting, correcting, comforting and encouraging us everyday of our lives.

  23. I added your blog to my recommended sites and followed you in networked blogs in facebook.
    -http://your-dailyword.blogspot.com

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