Wheaton provost apologizes to Larycia Hawkins; she’s leaving

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Wheaton College history professor Larycia Hakwins has been told she faces a termination-for-cause proceeding for her view that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

Wheaton College history professor Larycia Hakwins has been told she faces a termination-for-cause proceeding for her view that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

Larycia Hawkins speaks on Jan. 6, 2016, at First United Methodist Church in Chicago. Religion News Service photo by Emily McFarlan Miller

Larycia Hawkins speaks on Jan. 6, 2016, at First United Methodist Church in Chicago. Religion News Service photo by Emily McFarlan Miller

(RNS) Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins, who faced termination from her tenured post at the evangelical school for publicly saying Christians and Muslims worship the “same God,” has announced in a joint statement with the college that she will leave.

The statement on Wheaton’s website referred to a “confidential agreement under which they will part ways.”

Wheaton President Philip Graham Ryken is quoted offering the history professor appreciation for her nine years at the college outside Chicago. “We are grateful for her passionate teaching, scholarship, community service and mentorship of our students.”

Hawkins is quoted praising the college, often called the “evangelical Harvard,” saying that it represents Christian liberal arts in “its mission, programs, and in the caliber of its employees and students.”

Ryken emailed students, faculty and staff Saturday (Feb. 6) to announce that the “complex and painful” controversy has now “come to a place of resolution and reconciliation. With a mutual desire for God’s blessing, we have decided to part ways.”       

Ryken called this “a time for prayer, lament, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation,” and announced a reconciliation service in the college chapel for Tuesday, at which he and Hawkins will both speak.

Ryken also announced there will be a review by the Board of Trustees on the issues raised over the last two months, including “academic freedom, due process, the leaking of confidential information, possible violations of faculty governance, and gender and racial discrimination.”

Hawkins was suspended in December when the administration deemed her personal Facebook post in December — in which she spoke about solidarity with Muslims during the Christian Advent season — was a violation of the school’s requisite statement of faith.

This provoked an uproar, with students demonstrating in support of Hawkins and the Rev. Franklin Graham publicly supporting Wheaton. “I can tell you — Islam and Christianity clearly do not worship the same God,” Graham said, in support of moves to fire Hawkins.


RELATED STORY: Wheaton College’s disgraceful suspension of professor for controversial comment


In January, she was told the school was moving to terminate her. However, the termination process, which began with an investigation by a faculty council and would eventually reach Provost Stanton Jones’ desk, was short-circuited when faculty leaders unanimously asked Wheaton College to drop its attempt to fire Hawkins, according to Christianity Today.

In a letter dated Feb. 2 and published Saturday by the magazine, Jones told the faculty:

“I communicated to Dr. Hawkins that I recognize her as a sister in Christ, and that it was never my intent to call the sincerity of her faith into question. 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. While I acted to exercise my position of oversight of the faculty within the bounds of Wheaton College employment policies and procedures, I apologized for my lack of wisdom and collegiality as I initially approached Dr. Hawkins, and for imposing an administrative leave more precipitously than was necessary.”

Hawkins has said she has no regrets over her comments on Dec. 10. She wrote,“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And, as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

Christianity Today reported that she wore a hijab in a show of “embodied solidarity” with Muslims in America after Donald Trump and Franklin Graham called for bans on Muslims immigrating to the United States.


RELATED STORY: Americans’ views on Islam, Muslims divide by party lines


On Monday (Feb. 1), Hawkins donned the headscarf again for World Hijab Day, tweeting, “I’m veiled today and I’m in good company with Muslim & non-Muslim sisters,” according to Christianity Today. 

The news site cited a LifeWay Research survey which found that 60 percent of evangelical Protestants believe that Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God, while about 35 percent believe they do.

Saturday’s joint statement said, “Both parties share a commitment to care for the oppressed and the marginalized, including those who are marginalized because of their religious beliefs, and to respectful dialogue with people of other faiths or no faith.”

It also announced that none of the parties would be available for questions and that there will be a joint press conference — where no questions will be allowed — “in pursuit of further public reconciliation” on Wednesday (Feb. 10) at a Chicago church.

(Cathy Lynn Grossman is a senior national correspondent for RNS)

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  • Anton

    So many gods and so little sense.

  • Diogenes

    From the standpoint of theology; that is, the study of doctrines of world religions, the departing professors’ original declaration made no sense in the 1st place, particularly from an academic perspective. It will be no loss to Wheaton to have her absent from the faculty.

  • Edith Herring

    Question: if the Muslim God cannot be our God because our God is the father of Jesus, what about the Jewish God? Is the Jewis God our God?

  • Felicity

    An investigation of Islam indicates that Islam is a heresy, not a separate religion with a “separate” God.

  • William Bockstael

    The nicest thing about Hinduism is that you can worship several deities without having them jump at their throats

  • William Bockstael

    Only if you keep it kosher

  • Tom Downs

    Pat, your God is too small. So small in fact that you have put him in a box.

  • Naksuthin

    Christians are all the same . Each one claims they KNOW the truth and that everyone else’s beliefs are false.
    Comments like your makes me glad I left the Christian church years ago.
    They are nothing but a bunch of Pharisees and Sadducess trying to count how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

  • Fran

    Jesus is the son of God as God declared him to be (Matthew 3:17). at his baptism. Jesus also acknowledged, in prayer to Him, that God (not Jesus) was the only true God (John 17: 1-3).

  • Fran

    The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (or Yahweh) is the God of Jesus.

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  • God is not politically or religiously correct. He tells us the truth, not just what we want to hear like many men do. God will never lie to us, for God cannot lie. People will lie to you and this idea that there are many roads to God is a LIE. If that were true than the Son of God would never have come down from heaven to suffer and die such a horrible death. Why would He need to if there were many paths to God? Jesus is very clear: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; NO ONE comes to the Father, but by Me.” (John 14:6) Receive Him as your Savior and Lord. Turn away from sin and false teachings and abide in Him. Then you will know His peace, and His truth, and you will truly be free. God Bless

  • edward

    And the God of Islam.

  • edward

    Heresy is in the eye of the beholder.

  • Keris

    Investigate profoundly. For the direct disciples of Jesus were the Ebionites and the later Nestorians – traditional worshippers of One True God on High. They were anathematized by Emperor Constantine and the Pauline trinitarian bishopry in the 4th century, persecuted and exiled. So yes we worship but one and the same Creator Lord, but we have parted ways in our respective understanding of God on High and the ordinances of true religion. That is not to say that there are less many intra-religious differences as there are interfaith disagreements. Take ISIS for example: Their contorted beliefs and misdeeds have cast them outside the pale of Islam – despite their overt shows of religiosity.

  • Judith Eve

    Didn’t Jesus say His Father was The Father of all Mankind (meaning Womenkind, too, of course)? He didn’t say God was just for the folks who were born, lived, and died after him. He didn’t say Heaven was just for Christians, who weren’t even officially being called Christians at the time. I mean, most of his followers, when he was alive and speaking for himself at least, were Jewish (as also noted above), with the same Old Testament traditions as Islam. If Pope Francis said that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, like Professor Hawkins I agree with him. (He’s extremely catholic for a Roman Catholic.) Anyway, I’m sure we’ll hear more from this courageous lady.

  • Brendan W

    This is precisely why I never hire graduates from these types of religious colleges…they cannot handle the pluralistic realities of the world. What a shame for all involved….and how embarrassing for anyone who is an alumni.

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  • Jay

    Both the college and this woman are so awful, one can only smile at this outcome. The parting is no doubt sweet sorrow, for they actually deserve each other.

  • William Bockstael

    Meawhile….Jesus, Allah, Laskmi and Zeus were all together watching the SuperBowl and eating some nachos

  • Robin Olson

    Shame on you, Wheaton College. Why even bother with your anemic apology to Dr. Hawkins when you can find no place for even a slight tolerance for academic and theological freedom? You shame Christianity. You shame higher education.

  • David Scott

    Why do so many “Christians” spend all their religious energy pronouncing what they are AGAINST versus what they are FOR? Do these “Christians” now pray to the GOD of INTOLERANCE versus the teachings of Jesus? An embarrassing and shameful lot, they are!

  • Sabelotodo2

    The sad thing is, this whole social media-driven uproar of Wheaton students protesting in support of Hawkins, is evidence that arrogant little millenials are “taking over the assylum” like their peers have been doing in countless secular institutions with their PC gospel and trigger warnings. It simply adds to the idiocy of truth being determined by the youthful masses using social media, instead of scholarship and the mature wisdom of a seasoned faculty. With Bernie Sanders recently giving socialsim a new lease on life among this youthful population, be perpared to soon hear that Karl Marx is a great teacher and prophet, equal to–or even superior to Jesus Christ!

  • What can I say that has not already been so wisely said, but just to agree that,
    and I love this assessment: “The arrogant millenials” are just that, arrogant.
    They are “given” a “too”l which they assume is a substitute for actual intelligence.
    Once they have “it” they somehow feel that they no longer have to actually
    THINK on their own and that this tool must be unquestionably accepted as
    the ultimate source of TRUTH. So sad, especially for the church.

  • William Mahrt

    Distinctions have to be made. If God is true, there is only one God, and however imperfect, our worship of one God is of the same God. On the other hand, the conceptions of the God being worshipped between Islam and Christianity are radically different, and so, in that sense, we do not worship the same God. Objectively, it is the same God, subjectively it is not.

  • Debbo

    Wheaton is no longer the “evangelical Harvard.” They’ve made themselves into the “Bob Jones evangelical.”

    (BTW, they’re are plenty of wonderful millennials. I’m a Boomer.)

  • Yes, the followers of Jesus Christ or Yeshua HaMashiach were Jewish. The early Church was almost entirely Jewish. The God of Israel is God. Jesus Himself said: “Salvation is of the Jews”. Meaning, we must come to the God of Israel, and we must come to Him on His terms, not our own. His terms are that we come to Him through the promised Messiah, the One who died for us, the One who atoned for our sins, so that we could be forgiven and have eternal life. Shalom

  • Nina

    God is the God of the Jews. That they don’t accept His son Jesus does not change the He is their God. There is only ONE God. We either accept Him or we don’t.

  • Advaita Vedanta

    The non-dual Reality that is at the heart of ancient vedic spiritual wisdom really has been eclipsed by the rather sophisticated religion of the Hindu pantheon: worship syncretically according to your wishes, but few realize those practices actually intensify chauvinistic indian caste structures.

  • Fisher Humphreys

    It is incoherent to use the words “reconciled” and “part ways” as equivalents.

  • Wheaton: It’s incoherent to use the words “reconciled” and “part ways” together as you have done.

  • Wheaton, it’s incoherent to use the words “reconciled” and “part ways” together in the way you have done.

  • Amanda Worley

    How right you are, David.

  • shawnie5

    Indeed. Similar media-driven stinks arise all the time over the views of conservative professors and are not even commented upon by RNS.

    I have to laugh when I hear libs preach about “academic freedom” when it is their own indoctrination of today’s woefully ignorant and therefore highly impressionable youth that has resulted in such new-found contempt for freedom of speech, press, religion — and even thought.

  • John DeFelice

    Actually her position is academically, historically and religiously accurate. It made perfect sense. The real Diogenes would have known that.

    Every course that discussed Islam at Gordon Conwell years ago confirmed it. Every historical source confirms it. However bigotry seems to despise verifiable facts. Muslims may not approach the God of Abraham as you do. But they approach the God of Abraham. It’s interesting. Looking at the arguments from the Franklin Graham side, if applied to Jews, they also do not worship the same God as Wheaton fundamentalists!

  • John Tiemstra

    Read the story again. The seasoned faculty of Wheaton were opposed to this unfortunate action by the administration. The Provost’s action seemed to be driven by outside forces (donors?) rather than real consideration of the issues. As for Bernie Sanders and his platform, please remember that back when the Christian church ran the health care system, nobody was turned away because they were poor. Jesus healed those who came to him in need, and did not turn away people because they could not pay. Some people contend that healing was most of what Jesus did during his public ministry. Sanders is proposing that we go back to that model. I agree with him.

  • Jay

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but Wheaton has NEVER been a respectable university. This latest action is just another chapter of a long sorry history of intolerance. The people who run Wheaton not only do not understand the concept of academic freedom, but would find such a concept repulsive if they did understand it. They already are the Bob Jones University of the MIdwest.

  • Earl B. Stewart

    In my conversations with many people, including Christians (of which I am one) about Islam, I have asked them if they have read either the Koran or books written about the history of Islam. The most frequent answer has been “no.” That suggests to me that many people, including many Christians are getting their information from the media and popular opinion.

  • jollyfolly

    Christianity is a religion of ultimate tolerance–for those that wish to turn their lives over to Christ. No one that is willing to trade metaphysical rags for riches is turned away. Women are not the sub-class they are in other religions mentioned in this thread. Men are not the overlords they are in these other constructs–at least they are not supposed to be. Children are accepted as being a blessing rather than an asset to be used. Everyone is free to accept or deny. Please, please, try that in any islamic environment and report back, if you survive.

  • I have to agree with you John DeFelice. The real Diogenes would know and appealing to the doctrines of world religions in the way he did makes no sense at all. As a Wheaton guy I am glad for resolution but her absence will matter to many. The solution was not ideal but it is far better than it might have been.

  • Hotrod

    Nice try:

    1 Corinthians 11:3-9King James Version (KJV)

    3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.

    4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.

    5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

    6 For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.

    7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.

    8 For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man.

    9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

  • T

    As a graduate of this college providing spiritual care in a religiously pluralistic setting, I take issue with your hiring practices.

  • Hal Eaton

    If we believe that there is one God, then anybody else who tries to relate to (our) God probably believes the same. We all have chosen our particular prophets, with both our and their own idiosyncrasies. The Wheaton situation (and its resultant comments) reveals choices (prejudices, biases, revealed sources) to support our commitments. Various expounders, from Franklin Graham to Hal Eaton, have all offered ideas and attitudes.
    “Further along, we’ll know all about it . . . ”
    Until then, we’ll go along, to get along.

  • Debbo

    I No bubbles burst here. The “evangelical Harvard” quote is entirely sarcastic from my point of view. I’ve never supported a righty institution, including this one.

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  • Sharon Ledbetter

    It seems you and I read different Bibles and theological thoughts.I guess you aren’t a monothesist