Can a person belong to two religions?
The journey of Rev. Ann Redding.
Reactions by others to her decision.
Rev. Ann Holmes Redding, a Muslim - Christian?
Rev. Ann Holmes Redding, 55, graduated from Brown University, earned
master's degrees from two seminaries, and received her Ph.D. in New Testament
from Union Theological Seminary in New York City, NY. She felt called to
the priesthood; in 1984, she was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church, USA. She will teach the New Testament
as a visiting assistant professor at Seattle University in the fall of 2007.
She has a life goal to create an institute to study the three largest
monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and
In 2005-Fall, a Muslim leader gave a talk at St. Mark's
Cathedral where Redding worked. She was moved by his prayer. During 2006-Spring,
another Muslim leader taught a chanted prayer to God at a cathedral's inter-faith class.
She began reciting the prayer daily. She began to study Islam intensely. in 2006-March, she
became a Muslim by reciting the shahada -- "There is no god but God (Allah), and
Muhammad is his prophet."
She says that:
"Coming to Islam was like coming into
a family with whom I'd been estranged. We have not only the same God, but
the same ancestor with Abraham."
She attends Friday services at a mosque, prays five times a day, and
identifies herself as following two religions. She said:
"I am both Muslim and Christian, just like I'm
both an American of African descent and a woman. I'm 100 percent both."
The Associated Press reports that:
"She says she felt an inexplicable call to become
Muslim, and to surrender to God - the meaning of the word 'Islam'."
Redding describes her acceptance of her additional faith:
"It wasn't about intellect. 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. I could not not be a Muslim. ...
I think this thing that's happened to me can be a sign of
Reactions by theologians to her religious inclusion/conversion:
Her friends generally support her. But religious
authorities hold mixed opinions. Many of the latter feel that beliefs taught by Islam and Christianity
make the two religions
mutually exclusive. Others believe that it is possible to interpret the tenets
of the two faiths in such a way that a person can accept both faiths
Kurt Fredrickson, director of the doctor of ministry
program at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA, said:
"There are tenets of the faiths that are very,
very different. The most basic would be: What do you do with Jesus? I
don't think it's possible [to be both, just like] ... you can't be a
Republican and a Democrat."
"It's a matter of interpretation. But a lot of
people on both sides do not believe in interpretation. "
|Ihsan Bagby is an associate professor of Islamic
studies at the University of Kentucky. He notes that Islam tends to
be a little more flexible on matters of belief. Muslims can have faith in
Jesus, he said, as long as they believe in Mohammad's message.
|Mahmoud Ayoub, professor of Islamic studies and
comparative religion at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, notes
that in Islam, God is one an indivisible and unique. He said:|
"The theological beliefs are irreconcilable.
For Muslims to say Jesus is God would be blasphemy."
Most Muslims believe that belief in the Trinity is belief in polytheism
2 and is the most serious type of
blasphemy against God.
|Frank Spina, an Episcopal priest and professor of
Old Testament and biblical theology at Seattle Pacific University,
"I just do not think this sort of thing works.
I think you have to give up what is essential to Christianity to make
the moves that she has done. ... The essence of Christianity was not
that Jesus was a great rabbi or even a great prophet, but that he is the
very incarnation of the God that created the world.... Christianity
stands or falls on who Jesus is."
He also notes that Episcopal priests have taken vows of commitment to the
doctrines of the church: "That means none of us
get to work out what we think all by ourselves."
Reactions from non-theologians:
|Doug Thorpe was a member of St. Mark's faith-formation
committee with Redding. He has noted how her decision has deepened her spirituality.
He feels that Redding is being called:|
"... by her very presence,
[to be] a bridge person. And we desperately need those bridge persons."
|"mOok" at mOokblog writes: |
"Surely, given Christianity and Islam’s opposite positions on Jesus’
humanity, his Son-ship, his divinity, his crucifixion and his
resurrection, if the way you 'understand Jesus is compatible with
Islam', then by definition the way you understand Jesus is incompatible
with the Christian faith."
"Honestly, this is the sort of stuff that I’d have expected to hear
from Jade Goody or Helen Adams on Big Brother, not from a priest in the
Christian Church who has a PhD! ..."
"And news just in: it's possible for a fish to be a spaceship, a
pizza to be a bicycle, a frog to be a sky scraper, a tomato to be an
aqualung and a potato to be prime minister of Bulgaria."
|Michael P.F. van der Galiën wrote on
the Moderate Blog Network:|
"I think, from a theological perspective, that it is quite an
interesting question: can one be both Muslim and Christian (at the same
time)? My initial reaction is 'of course not.' However, when I thought
about it for a while, I thought 'well, the way she explains it makes me
think it is possible, in so far that it is all a matter of
interpretation.' Redding has a somewhat different definition of what it
means to be a Christian than I do, but I would not dismiss her views too
easily. For one thing, many, many European Christians probably share her
"You could say that she has found a ‘middleground’ which makes it
possible for her to say that she is both. Of course, this does not mean
that Christians and Muslims who interpret their respective Holy Books a
bit more literally than Redding does, cannot disagree with her and say
that she is not a Christian / Muslim; it does, however, mean that she
can defend her position. ..."
"It is a very interesting thought process. The result is, I guess,
that more strict Christians will consider Redding to be Muslim, and
stricter Muslims will consider her to be Christian. Then we have the
group who are less strict and believe she can be both, and, lastly, some
people will consider her to be neither."
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today. Punctuation and
spelling were corrected in the blog quotations.
Janit I. Tu, "Reverend drawn to
Muslim faith," The Columbian, WA, 2007-JUN-17, at:
"Islam and Christianity; Common grounds," Reading Islam,
mOok, "The Theological Toilet," mOokblog, 2007-JUN-08, at:
George Conger, "US Priest says Islam Christianity are united,"
Michael P.F. van der Galiën, "Episcopal Priest: 'I am both
Muslim and Christian'," The Moderate Blog Network, 2007-JUN-17, at:
As of 2007-JUN-18, A Google search for
redding islam christianity
returned about 2,800 hits. Two days later, it reached 3,300.
Copyright © 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2007-JUN-18
Latest update: 2007-JUN-20
Author: B.A. Robinson