Christian “and” Muslim?

There have been some articles lately about an Episcopal priest who says she is both Christian and Muslim. I’ve actually had a few phone calls from people wondering what I think about all that!  As I understand it, this priest has recently engaged with Islam, been impressed with its spiritual disciplines, has experienced a new “submission” to God (which is the core of Islam), and how considers herself something of a bridge person between the two faiths — both of which she honors.

I also sense that the “Afro-centric” or at least “people-of-color-centric” ethos of Islam was appealing to this African American woman who, especially in the Episcopal Church, must sometimes feel pretty lonely — even with all our claims of diversity and the fact that we (still) belong to a worldwide Communion which is largely made up of people-of-color.

My opinion? While I honor any honest search for God and truth and believe this woman is embarked on such a journey, my guess is that — sooner or later — she will have to decide. I do not believe it is possible to be both a Christian and a Muslim with integrity…and I believe her to be a person of integrity.

One can honor and explore both traditions and, God knows, we need bridge-builders and interpreters of both faiths, but my experience is that Muslims respect Christians most when we are clear about what we believe, committed to it, yet are able to appreciate and honor their faith as well. Many of us who are Christian would say the same thing about Islam.

I will keep my sister in my prayers — for many reasons. Chief among them will be that she will be granted wisdom, discernment, and knowledge. And that she will remain a person of integrity.   

14 Responses to “Christian “and” Muslim?”

  1. thomas bushnell, bsg Says:

    have you read life of pi?

  2. Jamie Says:

    I have read Life of Pi, and although I enjoyed it, I found it really to be more philosophical fluff rather than actually giving me a lot to think about. With respect to this issue, I would have to agree with the Bishop — for Christians the nature of God as triune the way that and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are so central to our story about how we believe that God has chosen to interact with humanity means that I also cannot see how one can be both Christian and Muslim with integrity to each. I’m also not entirely convinced that one would want to since I would propose that the Christian life and the Muslim life have slightly different goals.

  3. thomas bushnell, bsg Says:

    well, the philosophers i know (and i’m actually one of them) thought that life of pi had some quite nice things to say about the nature of narrative and the element of choice in assuming one’s values. (something that Sartre and Kierkegaard are both urging.) the question of the novel, “which story do you prefer?” and the question of when and why one must make a choice are good questions.

    Pi doesn’t choose between his three religions, and in some way he manages to live all three–at the beginning of the book. i’m not trying to simplistically say that this somehow trivially maps over into the instant case, and i haven’t disagreed with the bishop–indeed, i think he and i and you all agree about this case.

    but at the end of the novel, Pi asks “which is the better story” and it is clear that the story the insurance adjuster prefers is therefore the right story (for him, and for Pi), and therefore the other story is the wrong one. both stories somehow co-exist, but one is the better story.

    we are confronted then with Pi’s musings on religion: if we take that question back to the beginning, which religion is the better story? the story of the life, death, and resurrection of jesus is the better story (or so i judge, and you, and the bishop), and seems to exclude the other story, so there it is.

    one thing i loved about Pi’s conception of story is that one can respect the goodness of a story without signing on to it, and this provides a way to understand other religions…sometimes, for remember, Pi does not like Buddhism because it does not have a good story (or so he says).

    i think it is wrong to take Pi’s early musings on religion as all that Martel has to say; Pi is a character and not just a mouthpiece for the author, so it is fair to ask how Pi’s later experiences change and mature his earlier thoughts. perhaps his experience teaches him precisely why one must choose a story and cannot simply live inside all three at once.

  4. ePiscoSours » Blog Archive » About the Muslim Priest Says:

    […] Bp. Epting has some good words on the topic as […]

  5. drjoan Says:

    I cannot agree with the Bishop. He says Ms. Redding is a “person of integrity” and repeats that statement. How can she be such a person of integrity and remain an Episcopal priest?
    Is the Bishop–like the Bishop of Olympia, Vincent Warner–condoning her denunciation of both her Baptismal and Ordination vows?

  6. ecubishop Says:

    She has denounced neither her baptismal nor ordination vows.

  7. Randy Muller Says:

    If she has integrity, and claims to be a muslim (without redefining the word), then she would be violating the following ordination vows:

    1. “Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them?” The presumed answer is “yes”, but she would have to answer “no”, if she has integrity.

    2. “I solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation”. This is in contradiction to Islam, especially the formula, “Allah is One and Mohammed is his prophet”, since the old and new testaments don’t even mention Mohammed, not to mention that Jesus himself said, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.”

    3. “I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church”. Muslim doctrine, discipline and worship is certainly not the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church.

    If she claims to do something like hold “both truths together in tension”, then I would argue that she is redefining both Christianity and Islam and has no integrity.

  8. ecubishop Says:

    I have said that, in my opinion, she will have to make a decision and that I do not believe it is possible to be both Christian and Muslim. But I wonder if either drjoan or Randy are willing to give this woman some space, some time to sort things out? Is it really necessary to judge her so harshly?

  9. thomas bushnell, bsg Says:

    i agree with the bishop here. time is not a bad thing; she has much to sort out. nothing is served by the insistence that anything immediate must happen.

    curiously, buddhism has coexisted with christianity for many people for many years. but islam (or judaism) are different, perhaps, because so similar.

  10. Chris G. Says:

    To me, it’s very simple.

    If you are a Christian, you accept Christ as the Son of God. It is why we Episcopalians say the Nicene Creed during every service.

    If you are Muslim, you believe that Christ was no more than a major prophet. He is not divine, and He does not represent the culmination of God’s love for us.

    So the priest in question has rejected the central tenet of Christianity by espousing Islam. And while I believe strongly that there are many paths to God, this priest has now chosen to take a different path than that of the Episcopal Church and no longer has legitimate authority to act as one of its officials.

    If the Episcopal Church wants to have any legitimacy among its adherents, then it needs to strip this woman of priesthood immediately. We are not asking her to leave the church. She has already done this of her own free will.

  11. Forrest Dickinson Says:

    What alarmed me even more that the fact that she claims she is both a Muslim and Christian is when I read the following exchange from a Question and Answer Session she gave:

    Do you believe in the divinity of Christ? And if you don’t believe in original sin, is there any significance at all to Christ’s crucifiction? Your educational background and career notwithstanding, what beliefs do you hold that qualify you as a Christian?
    Sun, Jun 17, 2007 4:04 pm

    I believe that Jesus is divine in the same way in which all humans are related to God as children of God. Jesus is different in degree, not kind; that means that he shows me most fully what it means to be in total submission to and identification with God. The significance of his crucifixion is that it is the ultimate surrender, and the resurrection–both his and as it is revealed in the lives of his disciples–shows us that God makes life out of death. That is the good news to me and it is salvation. I don’t think God said, “Let me send ths special person so that I can kill him for the benefit of the rest of humanity.” That’s not the kind of sacrifice I think that God desires. “The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:18) Jesus’ sacrifice leads to our own.

    I do not have to qualify to be a Christian; it is a matter of the invitation and grace of God.
    Rev. Ann Holmes Redding
    Tue, Jun 19, 2007 12:04 pm

    Right there she denies the divinity of Christ and that he died for our sins. The fact that Christ is the Son of God and died on the cross for our sins is the very core belief of Christianity. It is what defines us as Christians. My wife and I are progressive people and try to be very open minded, but we have talked about this, and we are not going to remain in a church that allows ministers to serve that deny the divinity of Christ. If we were looking for that in a Church, we would attend something like a Unitarian Church. Which is the point, we are Christian. We want to be part of a Christian Church. A Christian Church by definition does not have clergy that deny the most basic tenants of the Christian faith. If the Church does not immediately remove such a minister, then that Church is no longer a Christian Church, and my wife and I (and I am sure many others) are going to forced to find another church that at least requires its clergy to be Christian.

  12. JB Says:


    The problem with giving her a space to sort everything out is that she is supposed to be leading a flock of Christ. I have absolutely no problem with the bishop removing her from her current church and allowing her to find the Truth. As far as I am concerned, the bishop can allow her to decide whether to renounce her orders in her own time. But allowing her to mislead an entire congregation while she personally quests ought not be an acceptible answer. The bishop ought to be at least as concerned for the congregation as he or she is for the clergy.


  13. ecubishop Says:

    She is not “leading a congregation.” She is a professor.

  14. JB Says:

    For that we can be truly thankful. Thank you as well for the clarification.


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