Wheaton faculty recommends college drop actions against professor

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Dr. Larycia Hawkins wearing a hijab.

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Dr. Larycia Hawkins wearing a hijab.

CHICAGO (RNS) Wheaton College’s faculty council unanimously recommended that the administration drop termination proceedings against Professor Larycia Hawkins, according to an email to the faculty obtained by RNS.

Hawkins, a tenured associate professor of political science, was placed on administrative leave after she expressed the belief that Muslims and Christians worship the same God and posted a photo on Facebook wearing a Muslim headscarf or hijab.

The council statement said it has “grave concerns” about the process the college followed in pursuing those actions, according to the email dated Jan. 20 from New Testament Professor Lynn Cohick, who chairs the council.

The evangelical school has been rocked by the controversy, which has led to national headlines and questions about the college’s theological direction.

On its website Thursday, it noted that the council’s decision to make a recommendation to the administration falls within its purview. But so, too, are the actions Wheaton administrators have taken against Hawkins, it said.

“The College administration is following the established process under the Faculty Handbook for handling employment decisions pertaining to tenured faculty members,” the statement said.

RELATED STORY: Larycia Hawkins ‘flabbergasted’ by Wheaton’s move to fire her

The council still has questions it hopes the administration will answer at a listening session for students and faculty scheduled for Thursday night (Jan. 21).

Those questions include:

  • Does the college have a position on what can be said regarding the question: “Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?”
  • What is the process for determining acceptable interpretations of the college’s statement of faith?
  • Do faculty have a role in this process?
  • How will faculty know if their views and/or statements are in danger of being judged unacceptable?

The council met Tuesday after discussions with both President Philip Ryken and Provost Stan Jones, it said.

The chair of the faculty personnel committee will make a recommendation regarding Hawkins’ continued employment at the college. Ryken then will make a recommendation to the Wheaton Board of Trustees.

Hawkins has stood by her belief that Muslims and Christians worship the same God since her initial Facebook post in December. That’s something the college has said seems “inconsistent with Wheaton College’s doctrinal convictions.”

Students have protested the college’s actions and faculty expressed solidarity with the suspended professor since returning to the campus last week after winter break. More than 800 Wheaton College alumni from classes dating back to the 1950s also have signed a letter saying they will reconsider financially supporting the college until it has reconciled with Hawkins, according to a statement last week by Arise Chicago.

(Emily McFarlan Miller is an RNS correspondent)

  • Bill

    Who wrote the misleading headline?

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  • Eric

    What’s misleading about it? The lede makes the same claim.

  • James

    I don’t know why this has been so dramatized by the news. It’s really simple. If someone from a private religious college came out and said that religious is fake, they would be fired. This is the same thing. She said something most people from that religious disagree with and other posts have said she argued a lot with the school in the past. She’s understandably being laid off. What’s the big deal?

  • Since there seem to be so many faculty taking Dr. Hawkins side and perhaps many faculty who also believe that Muslims and Christians worship the same god, I think it would be best if Wheaton College just close its doors and cease to be a college any more. Then maybe later on they could restart and hire only those people who actually believe the Bible and understand who God is because at this time, there are too many who don’t.

  • Scott Shaver

    From my chair, problem is not with the college, their abstract of principles, their mission statement or their administration/trustees

    Why isn’t the onus on the professor to present her reviewers and heads with a concise explanation of her thought process which leads to her theological conclusion in question (for very good reason)? Progressive views on social justice and Christian theological orthodoxy don’t always mean the same thing no matter how much “social justice” may wish it were so.

    Problem appears to be with faculty….which in this day of abundance of degrees and job-shortages, might be easily and systematically replaced.

    Somebody needs to hold true the wheel of the ship.

  • G Key

    Are Professor Hawkins’s detractors actually saying that 3 different (and competing) Gods all revealed themselves to Abraham, and that Abraham kept track of all their differences so that he could pass on those differences through the ages in order to make sure everybody knew that the “God of Abraham” was actually plural?

    This is nothing more than modern-day sibling rivalry. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are literally sibling religions. They are family. Their Father is the same God. And that’s not bad. In fact, it’s better than good. It’s the blessed truth.

    Wheaton should defend Professor Hawkins and use this situation as a teaching opportunity to share this truth with everybody who erroneously objects. And the objectors should publicly repent their loud bluster, since their bluster loudly misleads the public.

  • Bobby

    What you’re missing is that Hawkins and other faculty members have tenure. Therefore, the college bears the burden of proving that their views fall outside of the scope of the Statement of Faith, and any doubts on that question are construed against the administration. Otherwise, tenure has no meaning.

    Moreover, I suspect that most students agree with Hawkins too. So, when the faculty and the paying customers overwhelmingly support Hawkins, perhaps it’s the administrators who need to step aside.

  • Eric

    “Why isn’t the onus on the professor to present her reviewers and heads with a concise explanation of her thought process which leads to her theological conclusion in question (for very good reason)?”

    You really shouldn’t try to comment on a situation you know nothing about. She was required, per the terms of her suspension, to submit a theological statement explaining her comments and affirming her commitment to the school’s Statement of Faith. She submitted said statement and it was given the green light by the Provost. She was, nevertheless, subject to further scrutiny and penalties by the Trustees, who cared less about her theology than about appearing too sympathetic to Muslims in the eyes of their donors.

    Here’s her statement that are clearly unaware of. Do us all a favor and read it before you comment again. Better yet, read it and keep quiet.

  • Wayne Dequer

    I note that Allah is an Arabic word for God used by Arab Christians prior to the founding of the Muslim faith (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allah ). It comes from the same root word for God and words for God in Hebrew and Aramaic. I am Not saying Christian and Islam are the same, just that original words we use for God come from the same source.

    I believe we Christians have a duty to follow Christ and his example of including those with different beliefs. I note his purposeful travel through Samaria and ministration to the woman at the well, in spite of Jewish tradition of regarding Samaritans as heathens. I purposefully use the example of the good Samaritan and Not the good priest, Levite, etc. in his parable. There are good reasons to support freedom of religious beliefs, practices and expression. Of course Wheaton should be free to make its own rules and decisions regarding its faculty.

  • Wayne Dequer

    P.S. Nevertheless, I am concerned that some Christians think all who do Not agree with their particular religious beliefs are going to hell and therefore can be regarded as evil. The Christian leader, Desmond Tutu, wisely notes that: “That we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate. When we oppress other, we end up oppressing ourselves. All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity of others.” Near the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are the teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and the teaching on love in 1st Corinthians 13. Perhaps it would be wise to review them.

  • G Key

    It always does my heart good to read comments from respectful adherents of any spiritual/existential belief system, Wayne Dequer!

    And you’ll be happy to know that the “Al” in “Allah” and the “el” in “Immanuel” — a name for God commonly used by Christians — share the same etymology. That’s an additional, and very important, connection linking the 3 Abrahamic faiths.

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  • Despite our history of disagreements within orthodoxy, one common trait of Christian communities through the ages is the practice of hospitality.

    From the first centuries of Church history, we find story after story of self-denying desert saints who rejoice and break out the good stuff when a guest comes to visit.

    In the middle ages, Christians stayed in plague-ridden villages to tend the sick (and our modern word “hospital” comes from this very gesture of hospitality).

    Dr. Hawkins is not a theologian, true, but in this it is clear she is a Christian.

    Believers are called by Christ to undertake our public actions in a spirit of welcome, not suspicion. Indeed, we are commanded to pray for our enemies, and to bless those who wish us harm. Seen in this light, even those among us with the lowest opinion of Muslims should understand Professor Hawkins as acting in concert with the very core of the Christian faith.

    David Dault, Ph.D.
    President and CEO
    Chicago Sunday…

  • Jim Armstrong

    My sense is that this isn’t really about a different God. it is about a different name of God, traceable to language and particular (versions of) sacred texts.
    The problem seems to be that a problem with a particular name of God in a particular language, printed in ink in a particular sacred text, has somehow morphed into a fuss about the very nature of the Divine Presence.
    I would suggest that an Arab and an Evangelical [etc.], lying on their backs on a country hillside and staring up into the starry night sky, share exactly the same awe and sense of a timeless presence in a transaction that requires no name at all.

  • Fran


    The problem is that “Allah” does not have a son but “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” does, namely Jesus. So there are “differences” among the two.

  • james m. reid

    If she had said the Jews and Christians worshiped the same deity few would have batted an eye but it would be equally false. Jews worship “one God” and Christians worship a trinity. These are hardly the same thing.

  • G Key

    Fran & james m. reid,

    How do you explain the “God of Abraham” connection?

    Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all consider the first five books of Scripture to be God’s spoken words recorded by Moses.

    Judaism calls these books the Torah; Christians call them the Pentateuch; Islam calls them the Tawrat. All three faiths give written credit to the same Moses, and all three faiths give spoken credit to the same God.

    Different beliefs do not equate to different Gods.

    Hawkins said the truth: “same God”. She never said “same beliefs”.

    Yet the sibling religions’ rivalry continues, denying the same God, ignoring the same human patriarch, and stubbornly focusing on the same red herring: beliefs — which is completely irrelevant to the Wheaton-Hawkins spat, and has merely been dragged in by outside commenters for…

    …what? The thrill of competition? The vanity of “trumping”? The fun of fighting? The value of disrespecting other-believers?

    In God’s name?

  • samuel johnston

    OK. Franky, I will bite. Who is God?

  • Having tenure does not mean that a professor cannot be terminated from their employment when appropriate. Hawkins clearly violated the confession of faith she willingly signed. The administration is following their published policy in addressing this matter.

    Students are not “paying customers” as you call them as though they are dining at a restaurant. If that were the case, then it would not matter if they learned anything or not since “the customer is always right.” Imagine students never coming to class, receiving a failing grade, then going on the obtain a job in the marketplace. She paid her money and deserves an “A” in the course, right? Of course not! Students are not customers and by the very nature of their enrollment in a school are not always right.

    Wheaton is a private institution following the rules Hawkins agreed to abide by. She has blatantly failed to do so and now must accept the consequences of her decision. That sir is life!

  • Mr. Frensley:

    Respectfully, I would point out that in Prof. Hawkins’s first statement, she was careful to say, “As Pope Francis said last week, we worship the same God.”

    The context (and language) of that remark by the Pope can be found here: http://huff.to/20mxgje

    Prof. Hawkins may have misunderstood what Francis meant (the quotes are not an exact match), but it seems clear she was not trying to make a theological claim on her own authority, but rather on the authority of one of the most recognized Christian leaders living in the world today. Can we not assume she was making her statement, therefore, in good faith?

    (Of course, some do not recognize the Pope as a legitimate Christian authority, but that is a separate discussion)

    Let’s not forget the apostles also denounced the woman with spikenard in Matthew 14. As Jesus showed us, we should not always be so quick to want to silence a woman who is trying to bring balm. I hope we can come to see Dr. Hawkins in this…

  • Fran


    Yes, there is only one true God, Yahweh or Jehovah (Psalm 83:18), as believed by the Jews. However, as Jesus and the apostles foretold, apostasy would appear and this did take place after the last apostle, John, died (Matthew 24:11; 2 Peter 2:1,3; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Thess. 2:3). That apostasy included the teachings of the trinity, and eternal hellfire, just to name a few, which have no basis in the Bible, and which are still with us today.

  • Scott Shaver

    Perhaps “tenure”, then, is what’s killing the quality of American education both public and parochial?

  • Scott Shaver

    Have read her statement (and I’ll comment when and where I like/am allowed).

    Don’t see anything in there consistent with the statement and positions she’s taken PUBLICLY….you’re right. LOL

    Any other flashes of instructive guidance you might like to provide?

  • Scott Shaver

    So in our view, Dr Dault, “Hospitality” trumps the exclusivity of Christ in Christian orthodoxy?

  • Mr. Shaver – thank you for your question. I am confused why you see me as using hospitality to “trump” the Christian claim that Christ is God. I don’t recall saying anything of the sort. In fact, it is *because* we can be secure in the lengths to which God will go to reach us in our sin (incarnation, even unto death) that we can throw our own arms open to the world. In joining into our humanity to open a way of grace for the lost, Christ shows us the ultimate example of God’s hospitality. Wouldn’t you agree?