Those slow summer days

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.

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  • danr

    “The fifth word of the article”

    Math’s not my expertise, but could I request a recount? :)

  • Brad A. Greenberg

    D’oh. Thanks for that. Correction made.

  • kristy

    I was wondering if anyone here caught that story. (Although being part of the electronic media, I wasn’t sure it would be covered here.) My husband and I watched the “Disney News Report” with our mouths literally hanging open, exchanging incredulous looks, while our daughter was wondering what all of the fuss was about. I finally assumed it was newsworthy because ABC will be doing a soft news story about her on one of their primetime news magazines, or something. With drought, war, national and state legislation, and the latest Michael Jackson developments, you’d think they’d have SOMETHING else to report on.
    Just a heads up – The NBC news is on, and we just heard a story of a 7 year old boy in Utah who stole a car and drove around to avoid going to church. Maybe local news, but – national?? and there’s going to be more tomorrow morning on TODAY. I can’t wait to hear more about THAT. There’s a religious news story you can’t miss:)

  • Jerry

    puff piece to fill some space on a slow summer day. (Every newsroom has them.)

    This summer with everything that’s going on from health care to religious/political ferment in Iran to Travolta and Scientology? I think it’s less a matter of a slow news day but utter laziness or something. I don’t want to assume a motive, but it’s hard to resist the temptation. After all, they could have gone to and looked at a few items to find an interesting story.

  • Brian Walden

    I’d like to see reporting from the perspective of her mosque rather than just the Episcopal church – what do they think of her claim to be both Christian and Muslim. An interview with her Imam would be great.

    Just out of curiosity, when was the last time an episcopal priest was defrocked for doctrinal reasons?

  • bob

    Not that depth is ever attempted in such reporting, but it might surprise ABC news that the real story isn’t that she was defrocked, but that she continues to this day to be a layman *in good standing*. A full member, in communion with every other Anglican. Hence it’s not that you *can’t* be a cleric in the Episcopal church and a Muslim, but that you *can* be a layman and be a Muslim. That’s news. If the organization is in fact Christian at all. Worth an investigation, maybe. But it’s about a mile too deep to expect from the media.

  • d.burns

    This was some of the laziest reporting I’ve seen on TV. Absolutely no comments from Episcopal Bishops or Muslim clerics. No reporting on the differences between the two religions. Just the priestess complaining “poor me”. ABC news should be ashamed.

  • C. Wingate

    I also like the statement that Geralyn Wolf “demanded” that she renounce Islam, when those of us who followed the story remember a less, um, table-pounding interaction between the two. And while I’m at it, omitting Wolf’s identity allows them to convey the impression that it was a mean old man doing the demanding.