Wheaton takes first steps to fire prof over Muslim, Christian theology dispute

Higher Education
by Leigh Jones
Posted 1/06/16, 11:05 am

A panel of Wheaton College faculty will meet within the next 30 days to consider whether to recommend termination for one of their colleagues, political science professor Larycia Hawkins.

The hearing is part of the evangelical university’s standard process for terminating a tenured professor. Administrators placed Hawkins on paid leave in December after she made comments on social media about Muslims and Christians worshipping the same God. Her statements were part of a campaign of solidarity with Muslims sparked by recent debates about refugees and terrorism. To show support for her Muslim neighbors, Hawkins announced she would wear a hijab, the traditional head covering for Muslim women, during Advent.

Wheaton administrators didn’t oppose Hawkins wearing the hijab but said her claims about similarities between Islam and Christianity raised questions about her commitment to the university’s Statement of Faith. Hawkins initially said she would seek reconciliation with her employer and submitted a letter to administrators explaining her position. But when they asked for a meeting to discuss the issue further, she refused to participate.

Following the “impasse reached by the parties,” Provost Stanton Jones recommended the university initiate termination-for-cause proceedings, according to a statement posted on the school’s website Tuesday.

Speaking through a spokeswoman, Hawkins declined to comment on the situation but maintained “Christian support for the Muslim community amid the ongoing anti-Muslim climate.”

Wheaton administrators have repeatedly said her support for Muslims is not the problem.

Hawkins has taught at Wheaton for nine years, and this is not the first time she’s clashed with administrators. She’s been asked three times to explain herself in light of the college’s statement of faith. The first time involved her support for liberation theology, and the other two times involved alleged support for homosexuality.

After the faculty panel makes its recommendation, Wheaton President Philip Ryken will make his own recommendation to the university’s board of trustees, which has final say on Hawkins’ employment. In 2006, Wheaton fired a professor who converted to Catholicism because he no longer embodied “the institution’s evangelical Protestant convictions,” according to The Washington Post.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Leigh Jones

Leigh lives in Houston with her husband and daughter. She is the news editor for The World and Everything in It and reports on education for WORLD Digital.

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  • Karen K's picture
    Karen K
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 01:32 pm

    The Jews would necessarily be required to believe in one God with many evidences of triune attributes that they can't avoid seeing in their own Hebrew scriptures right there on the first page and onward.  Genesis 1:26 is where God says something very different from all His other previous creation commands:  "Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our Likeness:  let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."  (NKJV)  Note the plural references to God.  In contrast, God's previous creation commands make no reference to God, e.g. "Let there be light."  This Triune aspect of God became fully revealed in the New Testament.

  • Hans's picture
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 01:32 pm

    Curiously to this debate, Judaism believes strictly in only one God, and definitely not in three persons. Do we worship the same God as the Jews?

  • bike rider
    Posted: Fri, 04/15/2016 01:32 pm

    I understand that Islam believes in only one god. Our triune God exists in three different persons; God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, each of them can be referred to as God.   In John 14, and elsewhere,   Jesus referred to Himself as God, when Philip asked Him to show them the Father.    If Ms. Hawkins believes that Islam and Christians worship the same God, she is in gross error.  Taking Jesus Christ out of His rightful position in the Trinity,  changes the definition of who God is.   I say,  Wheaton College, stick to your guns.    Paul HansonDes Moines, Washington