Less than a month after placing professor Larycia Hawkins on administrative leave due to her controversial assertion that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, Wheaton College announced it has begun the process to fire her due to an "impasse."
As reported by the Gospel Herald, Hawkins, a tenured political science professor, took to Facebook on Dec. 10, 2015, to announce that she was going to wear a hijab throughout the Advent to show solidarity with Muslims.
While Wheaton does not have a specific position on headscarves, the professor was placed on paid administrative leave after stating that Muslims and Christians worship the same God -- a claim which contradicts the Evangelical institution's statement of faith.
"I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book," Hawkins wrote at the time. "And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God."
The Chicago Tribune notes that amid public outcry, Wheaton reviewed Hawkins' Facebook post before asking her to submit a reconciliatory theological statement, which she did.
Later in December, the college met with Hawkins to see if a reconciliation agreement could be reached. However, the professor reportedly turned down a proposal that would have stripped her of her tenure for at least two years, prompting Wheaton to announce that the two sides had reached an impasse.
"On the part of the College, further theological clarification is necessary before such reconciliation can take place, and unfortunately Dr. Hawkins has stated clearly her unwillingness to participate in such further clarifying conversations," the college said in a statement. "This represents an impasse on our efforts toward reconciliation."
"Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution's faith foundations with integrity, compassion and theological clarity," the college added. "As they participate in various causes, it is essential that faculty and staff engage in and speak about public issues in ways that faithfully represent the College's evangelical Statement of Faith."
On January 4, Provost Stanton Jones delivered a recommendation to initiate Hawkins' termination-for-cause proceedings to President Philip Ryken.
The statement, which was posted on the college website, clarifies that the recommendation "is not a termination; rather, it begins Wheaton College's established process for employment actions pertaining to tenured faculty members."
"Following Dr. Hawkins' written response on December 17 to questions regarding her theological convictions, the College requested further theological discussion and clarification," the college added. "However, as posted previously, Dr. Hawkins declined to participate in further dialogue about the theological implications of her public statements and her December 17 response."
The statement goes on to describe the termination proceedings, which require a hearing within 30 days before the Faculty Personnel Committee.
After the committee, which is made up of nine elected tenured faculty members, reviews evidence from both sides, it makes a recommendation to the school president about the action they feel the school should take regarding the tenured faculty member.
The president will then consider the recommendations of both Provost Jones and the FPC before making a recommendation to the Wheaton College Board of Trustees, which will, in turn, make the final decision regarding Dr. Hawkins' employment with the College.
On Wednesday morning, Hawkins took to Facebook to thank her family and friends for their support, writing, "More than ever, I feel the love and prayers of my family...You make me proud, as does the legacy and spirit of our loved ones who have passed on, yet continue to inspire us and envelop us in their love on our journey."
Some leaders in the Christian community, such as Samaritan's Purse president Franklin Graham, have praised Wheaton for the manner in which it has handled the issue despite severe backlash from the secular media.
"Shame on [Hawkins]! She said that Muslims and Christians worship the same God," the evangelist wrote in a lengthy Facebook post. "Well she is absolutely wrong-she obviously doesn't know her Bible and she doesn't know Islam."
Graham highlighted several differences between Islam and Christianity: "The God of the Bible, has a Son named Jesus Christ. The god of Islam doesn't have a son, and even the thought of that would be sacrilegious to Muslims. The God of the Bible sent His Son to earth to die in our place and save us from our sins. The god of Islam requires you to die for him to be sure that you're going to heaven. That's a huge difference-and there are many more examples!"
The evangelist went on to applaud Wheaton for putting Hawkins on administrative leave, referring to the college as one of the "the premier evangelical universities in this country" and the alma mater of his parents, renowned preacher Billy Graham and his late wife, Ruth Graham.