Professor ‘flabbergasted’ over Wheaton’s plan to fire her over worship comments

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SHAFAQNA – Wheaton College, an evangelical college in Illinois, had placed associate professor of political science Larycia Hawkins on administrative leave after she made a controversial theological statement on Facebook that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. The school has now begun the process to fire her due to an “impasse,” it said in a statement released on Tuesday.

Hawkins said on Wednesday that she is “flummoxed and flabbergasted” by the college’s decision.

Hawkins, a tenured political science professor, posted on Facebook that she would wear a hijab during the Advent season in support of Muslims.

“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” Hawkins wrote on Facebook. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

It’s unclear what specific statement Hawkins was referring to from Pope Francis, though the pontiff said in November that “Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters.” The Catholic Church has taught since the Second Vatican Council that Muslims and Christians worship one God, though they view Jesus differently.

The theological debate has centered on how evangelicals teach about a Trinitarian God, meaning that they believe in a three-person God — God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit — existing as one being. Muslims do not believe in the Trinity.

“While Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic, we believe there are fundamental differences between the two faiths, including what they teach about God’s revelation to humanity, the nature of God, the path to salvation, and the life of prayer,” the college said in a Dec. 22 statement.

Speaking at a press conference in the sanctuary of Chicago’s First United Methodist Church on Wednesday, Hawkins reiterated that she has not wavered from the college’s statement of faith.

“Wheaton College cannot scare me into walking away from the truth (that) all humans — Muslims, the vulnerable, the oppressed of any ilk ­– are all my sisters and brothers, and I am called by Jesus to walk with them,” she said.

During Hawkins’s administrative review process, which was paused over the holidays, Wheaton administration requested a theological statement, which Hawkins submitted. She was put on leave through the spring semester pending review.

“Following Dr. Hawkins’ written response on December 17 to questions regarding her theological convictions, the College requested further theological discussion and clarification,” the college said in the statement. “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.”

To Hawkins, it felt like “the rules changing, the goalposts keep moving,” and she declined to answer more questions. Next month, she will have a hearing before the faculty personnel committee of nine tenured and elected faculty members before a recommendation goes to the president and the board of trustees, and the board will make a final decision.

Hawkins has been asked to affirm the college’s statement of faith four times since she started teaching at Wheaton nearly nine years ago, according to theChicago Tribune. She was called in over a paper on black liberation theology that the provost thought endorsed Marxism, the paper reported. She was reportedly asked to defend a Facebook photo showing her at a party inside a downtown Chicago home the same day as Chicago’s Pride Parade. And she was asked to affirm the college’s statement after suggesting that diversifying the college curriculum should include diplomatic vocabulary for conversations around sexuality, according to the Tribune.

Last month, college officials said in a statement that Hawkins’s administrative leave came from her theological statement that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, not her desire to wear a hijab, her race or her gender. The statement has sparked a larger discussion over theological questions and the identity of the evangelical college where faculty are required to sign a statement of faith. Attempts to reach Hawkins and college administrators on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

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