Confessions of a Muslim Episcopalian
In the aftermath of the Trump election, friends of mine were posting online that if a Muslim registry gets set up, they would register as Muslims. Others questioned whether this was a meaningful gesture. Would such registrations be compared against who actually goes to mosque or even has Muslim friends? Instead, they suggested, attend a mosque or at least an inter-faith event. Get to know some Muslims.
With this in mind, together with my own journey of trying to figure out what God wants of me, when a friend of mine who is a Muslim chaplain invited me to the Seventh Annual Shura and In-Service Training for Chaplains and Imams and Other Service Providers to the Muslim Community sponsored by the Association of Muslim Chaplains, I decided to attend the event.
I am not an Imam nor a chaplain, but I am exploring if chaplaincy might be part of my journey. Likewise, I don’t currently provide services to the Muslim community, but that may also be part of my journey.
As I headed to the event, I wondered how I would be received. What it would be like, for me, a white Christian male to attend a Muslim event which would also probably have more people of color than white people?
One of the first breakout session I attended was about Building Diverse Allies in Post-Presidential Election America. It was a great session. One of the things that was talked about was cultural appropriation. Being mindful of this, I am seeking respectful and considerate ways of joining with the struggle of Muslims in describing myself as a Muslim Episcopalian.
Muslim means, one who submits to God. We might use the Arabic word for God, Allah. We might speak of God in terms of the Abrahamic traditions, the God of Abraham. We might speak of God as Creator. While I might have some minor differences in my understanding of who God compared to my Muslim or Jewish brothers and sisters, I do believe we are all worshiping the same God, and that if we take our faith seriously, we are all called to submit to the same God. Likewise, there are probably minor differences in understanding and practices of how we submit to God.
While those who are afraid of Muslims might say, but that’s not what we mean, and talk about Muslims from other countries that might threaten us, I would suggest that this real meaning of Muslim is, in fact, much more threatening to the powers of the world. In submitting to God, we are recognizing a power that is greater than the presidency, than nations, than even consumer product brands. The power of God is frightening to the powers of this world.
So, as I seek to submit to God within the traditions and understandings of the Episcopal Church, I feel it is appropriate to call myself a Muslim Episcopalian. I feel it is appropriate to learn from my brothers and sisters in the Islamic tradition of submitting to Allah. I feel it is appropriate to acknowledge those things that we have in common and celebrate our differences instead of letting those differences separate us or create fear.
There is a lot more to say about the conference, and I hope I’ll have energy to write more later. Until then, I invite my Christian friends to consider in what ways they are, or should be Muslim.