A US Episcopal priest who has been banned from practising as a cleric for claiming loyalty to both Christianity and Islam says she still believes it is possible to have dual religious loyalties - writes Chris Herlinger.
"I'm sad at the loss of this cherished honour of having served as a priest," said Ann Holmes Redding, quoted in a newspaper interview with the Seattle Times after the announcement on 1 April 2009 that she could no longer remain an Episcopal (Anglican) cleric.
The decision was made by Bishop Geralyn Wolf of the Episcopal diocese of Rhode Island. Redding was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1984 and lives in Washington State, but had kept her canonical ties in the state of Rhode Island.
Redding has said that being a Muslim has made her a better Christian. "Some people don't need glasses, some people need single lenses. I need bifocals," she told CNN in a television interview.
The statement issued by the Rhode Island diocese said that Bishop Wolf found Redding "to be a woman of utmost integrity and their conversations over the past two years have been open, honest and respectful". "However," the statement concluded, "Bishop Wolf believes that a priest of the Church cannot be both a Christian and a Muslim." As a result, Wolf imposed what is officially called "a sentence of deposition", in accordance with the canonical laws of the Episcopal Church.
The announcement ends a nearly two-year process in which Redding had been suspended as a priest in 2007 after her public announcement about embracing both religious faiths and was given time to undergo a process of discernment to determine her faith commitment.
Christianity and Islam share a number of historical roots, and Islam recognises the importance of Jesus Christ. But Muslims do not accept the key Christian tenet of incarnation.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]