Logo
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth

Wheaton, Larycia Hawkins agree to part ways

Surprise announcement comes just days before the professor was set to go before a faculty council


Larycia Hawkins Associated Press/Photo by M. Spencer Green

Wheaton, Larycia Hawkins agree to part ways

Wheaton College and Larycia Hawkins, the political science professor who started a furor over theology and academic freedom after declaring on social media that Christians and Muslims serve the same God, announced tonight they are amicably parting ways.

The surprise announcement came just days before Hawkins was to go before a faculty panel at the evangelical university in Wheaton, Ill., to defend her comments. Several groups of faculty members had voiced support for Hawkins, who maintained throughout the conflict that Wheaton was treating her unfairly and had no reason to question her adherence to the evangelical college’s statement of faith.

Hawkins made her controversial comments in mid-December as part of a campaign to show solidarity with Muslims. She announced she also would wear a hijab, the traditional head covering for Muslim women, during Advent. Wheaton administrators quickly put her on paid leave pending an official review.

Hawkins was a tenured professor who had worked at the school for about nine years.

“I appreciate and have great respect for the Christian liberal arts and the ways that Wheaton College exudes that in its mission, programs, and in the caliber of its employees and students,” Hawkins said in the joint statement issued with her now-former employer.

According to the press release, neither Wheaton nor Hawkins will be providing details of the settlement agreement. But “in pursuit of further public reconciliation,” Hawkins and Wheaton administrators will hold a joint press conference on Wednesday.

“Wheaton College sincerely appreciates Dr. Hawkins’ contributions to this institution over the last nine years,” Wheaton College president Philip Graham Ryken said in the joint statement. “We are grateful for her passionate teaching, scholarship, community service, and mentorship of our students.”

As part of the public reconciliation attempt, Provost Stanton Jones told faculty members he had apologized to Hawkins for the way he handled the situation. Jones recommended in January that the college fire Hawkins, which triggered the formal review process that would eventually have ended with a Board of Trustees vote.

“I asked Dr. Hawkins for her forgiveness for the ways I contributed to the fracture of our relationship, and to the fracture of Dr. Hawkins’ relationship with the College,” Jones wrote in an email to the faculty that was obtained by The Washington Post. He said he had shown a “lack of wisdom and collegiality” in dealing with Hawkins through another colleague, rather than directly.

The situation caused such an uproar on campus that Ryken said he has asked the board to weigh in on the process and the way it was handled.

“Because concerns have been raised about many aspects of this complex situation—including concerns related to academic freedom, due process, the leaking of confidential information, possible violations of faculty governance, and gender and racial discrimination—I have asked the Board of Trustees to conduct a thorough review,” Ryken wrote, according to the Post.

On Friday, slightly more than one-third of the school’s faculty signed a letter asking for Hawkins’ reinstatement. She has previously accused administrators of being on a witch hunt to pander to “platinum donors.”


Leigh Jones Leigh is acting managing editor for WORLD Radio. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate who spent six years as a newspaper reporter in Texas before joining WORLD. Leigh also co-wrote Infinite Monster: Courage, Hope, and Resurrection in the Face of One of America's Largest Hurricanes. She resides with her husband and daughter in Houston, Texas.

COMMENT BELOW

Please wait while we load the latest comments...

Comments

Please register or subscribe to comment on this article.


Stan Shelley

The really distressing thing is that one third of Wheaton's faculty do not recognized that Islam strongly denies that Jesus is the Son of God.  Their god clearly is not the God of Christianity.  It looks like they need Al Mohler at Wheaton.

Hans

Stan and bike rider, you both note correctly that Muslims deny that Jesus was the divine Son of God. Interestingly, so do Jews. Do Jews and Christians worship the same God?

Fuzzyface

Didn't she go before the board and discuss here theology?  That would make the parting based on her explanations to Wheaton not directly on Facebook post.

Lizzy

Hans and Pgadfly,The point you're trying to make is valid if you look at a just the Trinity.  But a point could also be made that Jews and Christians worship a God with totally different attributes that the god of Islam.  If you look at what believers in the God of Judaism and Christianity are called to be in relation to God versus what the believers in Allah are called to be it makes it less plausible that it is the same God that is being worshipped.  It isn't just that Muslims don't believe in the Trinity - the god they worship calls them to a totally different relationship with himself and with other people in the world than the one true God does. 

Hans

So then you folks who hold that Jews do not worship the same God as the Christians would also be in favor of firing anyone who disagreed with that assessment as unfit to teach in an evangelical institution? This entire hubbub only helps further to convince me that academic freedom is dying or dead at most of these conservative Christian colleges. I am not saying one way or the other whether I agree with Ms Hawkins. To me the whole issue here is academic freedom, and it is troubling to say the least that the current posture of many evangelical schools is not one where we embrace the discomfort of engaging intellectually positions we disagree with. Instead, it's ensuring the streamlining of everyone's point of view to match the board in order to ensure that the entire institution becomes a "safe space" for coddled Christian kids who need to be protected from scary ideas that are a little outside their comfort zone. Sound familiar?

Elaine

It appears that one third of Wheaton's faculty needs to go when she goes.  Muslims and Jews do NOT worship the God of the Bible because both reject the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the trinitarian nature of the true God.  Jesus made it clear that those who reject Him are from their father, the devil. 

Nat Manzanita

The question is an odd one, I think. As Christians, we believe there is one true and living God. We believe He is incarnate in Jesus Christ and exists eternally in three persons. If we ask whether the Greek Aphrodite and the Roman Venus are the same goddess, we are asking how similar are two imaginary figures. But if we ask whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God, the question is fundamentally different. One of the two figures being considered is the true and living God. If the other is not, he must be an imaginary figure. Is Allah an imaginary figure? Or a distorted view of the living God? I think the answer might vary from one Muslim to another. If God calls a former Muslim to himself in Christ, might that person believe (accurately) that some aspects of his old Islamic practice had elements of true worship, and that God had graciously claimed those elements (like the good deeds of Cornelius in book of Acts) while also leading him on from them to Jesus and to fully acceptable worship?

Hans

I agree, Nat. One of the things that I find extremely interesting (that is often missed in evangelical readings of Acts) is that when Paul speaks about the "unknown god" in Athens, he is speaking about an actual existing theology and cult. I can't say how many times I have heard evangelical pastors say something along the lines of, "the Greeks had thousands of gods, and they built another altar and ascribed it to the unknown god in case they missed one." That is incorrect. Instead, the unknown god was a kind of theological claim about a higher divine power that would be able to provide an overarching sense of coherence to the polytheistic system. The point is, though, it's an actual theological belief of the pagan worshippers in Athens, not merely a concession to a theological possibility. When Paul says that what was worshipped in secret he now makes known, he is at the very least appropriating an entire theology and terminology and identifying it with the Christian God as revealed in Christ. He is actually making a remarkably syncretistic move, at least on the surface. There are similar stories in Genesis 14 and 21, where the particular members of pagan Canaanite pantheon are identified with YHWH. At the very least, these instances raise some serious questions about how we are to differentiate between "different gods" and "false theology." Of course, there are other passages in Scripture that make a point out of distinguishing between the one true God and the false gods (Elijah and the prophets of Baal come to mind), but this is not the only perspective on this very complex issue represented in Scripture. At the very least, the judgment against Ms Hawkins seems awfully hasty.

Pgadfly

Here is a simple challenge for evangelicals who are struggling to understand how they and Muslims could possibly worship the same God." Come up with a definition of God that includes G_d in whom non-evangelical orthodox Jews believe but which does not fit the Allah in which Muslims believe." Most evangelicals have no trouble believing that although orthodox jews do not accept such notions as the Trinity or the incarnation of Jesus they do in fact believe in the God that evangelicals worship.

Laneygirl

A professor at a well known Christian college does not know her Bible nor the history of Allah the moon god, but is supported by 1/3 of the faculty who then label the true Christ Followers intolerant.It's time, Bride, to decide whether to please God or please man. (GA 1.10)If you don't stand for something (God's Word), you'll fall for anything (false theology). Instances of this are increasing across the spectrum, with not even our pulpits immune. 

William 1958

tenure is ridiculous. Who in the world gets a permanent job (other then tenured professors and Orrin Hatch, John McCain, Elijah Cummings, Barbara Mikulski, etc.).This lady professor is loved by the non-Christians.