Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Implications of the Episcopal Muslim Priest

I suspect some of you will think that I am fixated on the case of Rev. Ann Holmes Redding, the self-proclaimed Episcopal Muslim. I am not sure that I am, but her situation raises (in one way or the other) so many substantive issues -- not least the nature of the Godhead himself.

During the 1990s I got to know Leonid Kishkovsky, one of the leaders of the Orthodox Church in America, and unusual for an Orthodox priest in that he has also been heavily involved ecumenically. Among other things, Leonid is a past president of the National Council of Churches, hardly a right wing body! We were, if I remember correctly, talking over dinner one evening about the agendas people bring to believing and what might be the core requisite doctrinal convictions necessary for Christian believing.

I recall Leonid saying that he could cope with a breadth of belief, but it was when folks started messing with the doctrine of the Trinity that he found himself getting extremely uncomfortable. We kicked this around for a while, and I felt that by and large my friend was making a pretty good case. During the years since then I have watched as ecclesiastical wrecking balls have moved ever closer to deconstructing the Nicaean Creed. Certainly there have been individuals in the church who have problems with it, but they have been less blatant about their rejection of its central tenets than Ann Holmes Redding.

It is not that Dr. Redding's circumstance is strange, although it is, but stranger still has been the lack of appropriate response by the bishop of the diocese in which she is canonically resident, and also the almost-affirmation of her stance by the bishop of the diocese in which she is geographically situated. She clearly is in open denial of substantial truths concerning the nature and person of the Lord Jesus Christ, but it seems that those under whose authority she ministers are either unwilling or unable to enter into dialogue with her or take the appropriate disciplinary action. (See additional comments at the end of this piece)

So we have this bizarre reality now prevailing where priests and whole congregations are not only being shown the door, but are being subjected to draconian and bitter legal action because of they are attempting to actively work out what it means to live with the affirmations Christians have always believed. Meanwhile, another priest who has denied the very substance of her ordination vows, thereby de facto revoking her commitment to the doctrine and discipline of the Episcopal Church, not only gets away with it, but has complimentary articles are written about her by a church publication!

There is nothing take-it-or-leave-it about the Nicean and Chacedonian truths concerning the nature of the Trinity, and especially the fullness of the person who is the second member of the Trinity. These are not adiaphora, these are at the very heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, God's Incarnate Son.

Ann Holmes Redding has now clearly become a test case. If she is not put under any kind of discipline for her heterodoxy then it confirms that subjective relativism is the name of the game, rather than even the mildest form of catholic creedal believing. Jesus may be honored in Islam, but that faith honors him as something far less than the Son, God's ultimate revelation of his being, love, grace, and nature.

If Redding is Islamically faithful, then she probably believes that Mohammed is the bearer of God's ultimate message to humankind, which Islam affirms. If this is the case then she had relegated Christ in such a way that genuine Christian believing is made extremely difficult. However, if she believes that Jesus is God's only-begotten Son as stated in the Nicaean formula, then she is flying in the face of all that Islam believes about Christ. Christianity and Islam's understanding of Jesus of Nazareth are mutually exclusive of one another.

While such evisceration of truth leading to irrational relativism is as strange as anything that has come up in recent years, it is merely part of the amazing continuum along which much North American mainline religion is traveling.

Within the Episcopal Church, this relativistic tide is the environment that is leading to the wholesale rejection of the Anglican Covenant by dioceses, individuals, seminaries, and so forth. As I have studied the Covenant it seems to me to be little more than a 21st Century re-presentation of classic, historic Anglicanism. But historical Anglicanism is not what this tide of change is all about. Instead we prefer to stroke and be stroked by the Zeitgeist -- from this will come all manner banality.

*****

Within a very short time of me posting this piece, Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island place Dr. Redding under Pastoral Direction. We owe Bp. Wolf a great debt of gratitude for the manner in which she has handled this situation both with loving pastoral care and firmness. (http://www.standfirminfaith.com/index.php/site/article/4194/)

Nevertheless, the principle that I spell out here is one we need to ponder upon for it cuts at the very heart of a Christian understanding of the nature of the Godhead and the manner of redemption.

Richard Kew

4 comments:

Alan said...

Almost simultaneous with this posting, it hit the blogways that Bishop Wolf of RI, where Dr. Redding is canonically resident, has been placed under Pastoral Direction not to serve any priestly functions for the next year. My respects to Bishop Wolf, for acting graciously, and acting faithfully. One wonders what would have happened had Dr. Redding transferred her residency to Olympia?

Martial Artist said...

Rev. Kew,

It seems to me (perhaps because of my naval service) that The Episcopal Church has a significant number of bishops who either: (a) do not take their vow to defend the faith seriously, or, (b) are simply derelict in their duty for some other reason. I can honestly think of no other reasonable explanations. However, the fact that the number of such is not insignificant, it does raise in my mind the question of the fitness of the episcopal selection process for its intended purposes.

Stated another way, every time there is an episcopal election at a diocesan convention the results are reported with great fanfare that "the Holy Spirit has spoken." Too often subsequent events cause it to appear to me (and I do not doubt that the Holy Spirit does speak) that there is reason for serious doubt that the electors were listening, or at least listening to the Holy Spirit, rather than to some other voice.

God's blessings and my kind regards,
Martial Artist

Anonymous said...

Two comments:
1. I'm sure that the Arians and other heretics thought that the Holy Spirit was on their side, but the ancient councils of the Church decided that it was not so, and we are their descendents.
2. last Friday a group of Christian fundies stood outside a Seattle mosque 'witnessing' for Jesus Christ. The Muslims leaving the building ignored them. Several were converts from Christian sects.

Angeles Mendoza said...

Angeles

He have to remember that Jesus spoke in parables. Therefore, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6, (Bliblegateway.com)" may likely be are a parable too and He was talking about his attitude, his qualities, being Christ -like, and his surrender to God, rather that to Him as a man on Earth.

He should meditate in Jesus words on Mark 9:33-36: "Teacher," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us." "Do not stop him," Jesus said. "No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. 41I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.
(Bliblegateway.com)

Mediate and pray for God to open your ears, hearts, and minds, so you can hear, see, and understand.

Both Christian and Muslims are making the same mistake, focusing on the messenger (Jesus vs. Mohamed) and forgetting the message: That there is only one God and we have to love him above all.

If we focus on the message, will understand that we have to leave that immature separatism and start working together to establish the Kingdom of God here on Earth. It is up to us.

He have to understand each other, not bury each other.

Who said something like seek first to understand so you can be understood?