By CATHY LYNN GROSSMAN
© 2016 Religion News Service
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.
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.
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)