Did you hear the one about the Episcopal priest who decided she could be both a Muslim and a Christian?
Sure you did. You just may need to jog your memory a bit. It’s been a few years.
The story of Ann Holmes Redding emerged two years ago, and was an immediate fan favorite of news editor in need of a quirky story. Then Redding received a second dose of media attention when she was officially defrocked for her apostasy.
But that was so four months ago. So why in the world is ABC News revisiting this story?
Ann Holmes Redding was a prominent priest in the Episcopal Church for 25 years — until a radical test of faith shook her beliefs to the core.
A month after her mother passed away in 2006, Redding went to her mother’s apartment to pack up her belongings. Distressed and emotional, she began practicing an Islamic meditation technique that she’d learned in an interfaith class.
“The church where I was working invited in a speaker on Islam,” she said. “This particular class, the teacher introduced an Islamic prayer practice that I began that night when I went home, because it called to me as something that would be helpful in my spiritual practice.”
And that’s when it happened.
“I knew that Islam, the word itself, means surrender, self-surrender to God. So I surrendered to God and became a Muslim,” she said. “It came with such clarity and such power that I could understand it as nothing else but an invitation from God.”
Did you catch that opening sentence? The sixth word of the article — that’s the one that tells you this is really just a puff piece to fill some space on a slow summer day. (Every newsroom has them.)
Prominent … no knock on Redding, but she was the director of faith formation in the Olympia diocese, hardly a high-profile position. In fact, I’d lay favorable odds that before Redding announced her religious hybrid that even most Episcopalians in the Great Northwest didn’t know who held her job.
The story goes on to quote Redding saying “Jesus was the one who led me to Islam” and “I believe God’s salvation is bigger than Jesus.” What it doesn’t do is offer anything — anything — new about Redding’s “transformation.”
Futhermore, this article lacks anything resembling context, any discussion of what Muslims think of Jesus — he’s considered a prophet but not The Prophet — or, God forbid, any more of a challenge of Redding’s position than these three paragraphs:
Not everyone has welcomed Redding’s new identity. A year after she professed her Muslim faith, news articles brought her views into the public eye — and while many in her congregation supported her, others did not.
The bishop of Rhode Island, where Redding was ordained, demanded she renounce her Muslim faith or lose her right to be a priest. Redding refused, and was defrocked in April.
It was an incredibly painful experience, said Redding.
Please news media, it’s time to find something new in the Ann Holmes Redding story or retire it already.
The above clip from “South Park” seems fitting. Though humans fight over religion, it turns out that Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha et al are all Super Best Friends.