WHEATON, Ill. — Officials at Wheaton College have announced that their parting agreement with an associate political science director who will be leaving the college following controversy over her assertion that Christians and Muslims worship the same God will include an annual visit from a Muslim or Jewish scholar.
“Each year we will invite a scholar from the Jewish or Muslim community for respectful dialogue about interfaith relations,” Wheaton President Philip Ryken announced at a press conference on Wednesday. “And today, I announce that in the name of Dr. Hawkins we are establishing an endowed scholarship for interns to pursue a summer program or project in peace and conflict studies.”
As previously reported, Larycia Hawkins posted to Facebook two photos of herself wearing a hijab last month, and stated in a lengthy explanation that she planned to wear it everywhere she goes during the Advent—including at the Christian college and to church.
“I stand in human solidarity with my Muslim neighbor because we are formed of the same primordial clay, descendants of the same cradle of humankind—a cave in Sterkfontein, South Africa that I had the privilege to descend into to plumb the depths of our common humanity in 2014,” Hawkins wrote.
She said that not only does she have a common ancestry with Muslims, but that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.
“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” Hawkins asserted. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”
In light of controversy over her statement, the professor was placed on paid administrative leave by university officials while a review would be conducted.
“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 said in a statement. “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.”
But talks soon reached a stalemate, and officials soon issued Hawkins a “Notice of Recommendation to Initiate Termination-for-Cause Proceedings.”
On Saturday, just days before a meeting was to be held over the proceedings, Wheaton announced that the two parties had agreed to part ways.
“The administration and Dr. Hawkins have come to a place of resolution and reconciliation,” Ryken said in an email to the campus. “With a mutual desire for God’s blessing, we have decided to part ways.”
Hawkins and Ryken held a joint press conference at the First United Methodist Church in Chicago on Wednesday to discuss the decision further. Hawkins said that she wanted to see others speak out for the “oneness of humanity.”
“Today is Lent, the beginning of a season of fasting, a season to reflect where we are on our spiritual journeys, who we are and what we are becoming,” she stated, flanked by clergy of various religions, as well as a number of Wheaton faculty and alumni. “So, I ask you: Who are you? Do you find yourself in your neighbor? Because yes, we are all created in the image of the divine. But we find ourselves in our neighbors, we find ourselves in other people.”
According to reports, over 30 Hawkins supporters simultaneously held a protest on the steps of Edman Memorial Chapel calling on officials to “confess and repent of the sins of racism, sexism and Islamophobia, and recognize that all humans have dignity and are created equal in the eyes of God.”
Ryken, who formerly led Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia before becoming president of the school, said that while Wheaton was seeking to reconcile with Hawkins, it did not mean that all issues and concerns were resolved.
“In saying Wheaton College is reconciled to Larycia Hawkins we are not saying that everyone on every side of this conflict is totally satisfied. Nor are we saying that we simply move without addressing the issues that brought us to this place,” he stated.