Relaymedia

Wheaton College's Faculty Opposes Effort to Fire Professor Who Compared Christianity to Islam, Citing 'Grave Concerns'

( [email protected] ) Jan 22, 2016 11:56 AM EST
In an unexpected turn of events, the Wheaton College professor facing termination after asserting that Muslims and Christians worship the same god has won the support of the college's faculty council in her fight to stay.
Dec. 16, 2015: Wheaton College associate professor Larycia Hawkins talks to reporters during a news conference in Chicago. AP photo

In an unexpected turn of events, the Wheaton College professor facing termination after asserting that Muslims and Christians worship the same God has won the support of the college's faculty council in her fight to stay.

As reported by the Gospel Herald, Larycia 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 Evangelical institution placed Hawkins on leave, pending a full review of the "theological implications" of her comments, clarifying that the "overtures of Christian friendship must be enacted with theological clarity as well as compassion."

Earlier in January, college officials moved to fire Hawkins, explaining that she refused to participate in "clarifying conversations" about the issues raised by her statements.

On Wednesday, the school's highest faculty-elected body, which represents its 200-plus professors, formalized its recommendation that the school end its effort to fire Hawkins.

"Following recent discussions between faculty council, President Ryken and Provost Jones, Faculty Council unanimously recommended to administration that the administrative leave and the notification of termination 'for cause' of Dr. Larycia Hawkins be withdrawn due to grave concerns about the process," Lynn Cohick, New Testament professor and chair of the council, wrote on its behalf in an email sent to the entire faculty, Time Magazine reports.

The council reportedly asked the administration for clarification on questions including:

"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?" and

"How will faculty know if their views and/or statements are in danger of being judged unacceptable?"

The college said in response to the faculty statement that its recommendation was "within the guidelines for the Faculty Council provided by the Faculty Handbook". However, it said that the administration was following the "established process" and that the college president, Philip Ryken, would make a recommendation to the board of trustees after a hearing of the Faculty Personnel Committee.

Also speaking on Thursday, Hawkins said she continues to pursue reconciliation "for the sake of both my students and my colleagues, and the latter especially because they could be subjected to the same lack of due process that I have been subjected to."

"I feel strengthened by the fact that the recommendation itself was unanimous from the faculty council," she added. "There appears to be some clarity among the faculty that the college has abrogated its own procedures."