Essay / Theology

Planctus Regina scientiae – a Lament for Theology

As odd as news is that frequently emerges from the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA), a recent article in The Seattle Times reveals a new depth of dissoluteness. According to an article in the Sunday, June 17 edition, Episcopal priest Ann Holmes Redding is not only an Episcopalian but for the past fifteen months, a Muslim too. That’s right, she’s both a “Christian” and a Muslim: “I am both Muslim and Christian, just like I’m both an American of African descent and a woman. I’m 100 percent both,” she is quoted as saying. The article goes on to explain that Redding has no need even to attempt to reconcile this incoherent espousal of two dissimilar faith traditions: “At the most basic level, I understand the two religions to be compatible. That’s all I need.” Really? Apparently for Redding an inner calling of her heart is the reason for her decision to be both “Christian” and Muslim. Well, thankfully her bishop will step up to the plate and insist that she desist from such non-sensical practice, right? Wrong! The Seattle Times writes, “Redding’s bishop, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner, says he accepts Redding as an Episcopal priest and a Muslim, and that he finds the interfaith possibilities exciting.” Once again, conservative and orthodox Episcopalians/Anglicans everywhere are left scratching their heads in utter disbelief at the theological retardation that has infected the ECUSA.

But who should be the most surprised, shocked and embarrassed by Redding’s incoherent decision? It is obviously not her bishop nor is it the national ECUSA hierarchy who say that “it’s up to the local bishop to decide whether such a priest could continue in that role,” according to the newspaper article. In my estimation, those who should be protesting the loudest are those theologians who helped to train Redding for the priesthood. These women and/or men have the privilege of teaching theology, the “Queen of the Sciences,” only to see the discipline mocked and usurped by such blatantly heretical actions like those made by Redding. The Seattle Times tell us that Redding has earned master’s degrees from two seminaries but does not name the seminaries. The presidents and theologians of these two seminaries should be thankful that their institutions have not been implicated in this circus though I imagine that should these seminaries be ECUSA institutions that they will likely proudly boast about their “Christian”-Muslim alumna. Regardless, it is the holy discipline of theology that suffers the greatest by the actions of Redding. She has thrown the pearls of theology to the pigs of interfaith absurdity and it has trampled them underfoot. She has given what is sacred to the dogs. Thomas Aquinas, that greatest of medieval theologians, wrote that theology “has no superior” (ST I, q. 1, art. 8), a lesson that Redding apparently failed to learn in seminary. If one is able to earn two master’s degrees and a doctorate from seminaries and still not comprehend the place that theology holds above other academic disciplines, then those who do know are left to lament theology, queen of the sciences:

You now, O Theology,
I mourn above all,
among all disciplines
there will always be your truth.

Woe, why are you
mocked by people’s errors,
and could not your teachers
show forth your wisdom?
Because I have stood by your side
I am happy,
for there is nothing greater
than fidelity to you;
and living for you
means continual sacrifice
since your foes surround me,
trying to usurp your rightful place.

Though you will win
the final victory:
with unfeigned fear
I see you trampled underfoot
and cast before swine.

I will not silence my voice:
if only to suppress your enemies
by my speaking and writing.
My spirit faints within me,
my voice is hoarse in defense
but I hope in God.

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