Update: Wheaton College recommends termination of Professor Hawkins

Wheaton College has issued a recommendation to termination for Professor Larycia Hawkins, after an unresolved administrative process that followed her claim that Muslims and Christians worship the same God in December 2015.

On December 22, the College issued this statement: “The College’s perspective is that additional theological clarification is necessary before Dr. Hawkins may resume her full duties. Regrettably, Dr. Hawkins has clearly stated her unwillingness to further participate in clarifying conversations. At Dr. Hawkins’ request, the College proposed the terms of separation if she chose to resign. We have not asked her to resign and did not suggest that she do so.”

The recommendation to terminate Hawkins’ employment was issued on January 4, after Dr Hawkins’ explained her position at length, and then declined to continue with further theological discussion and clarification.

Wheaton College insists that the notice of recommendation “is not a termination; rather, it begins Wheaton College’s established process for employment actions pertaining to tenured faculty members.”

Hawkins donned the hijab back in December in an act of “religious solidarity” with her Muslim neighbours, after a mass shooting in California. The College took no issue with the wearing of the hijab, but when she explained her actions on her Facebook page, she said, “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.”

Wheaton College put her on administrative leave while they consulted with her about whether this claim conflicts with the official Wheaton College Statement of Beliefs.

NEWS | Tess Holgate
Tuesday 22 December 2015

Christians around the world are asking whether Muslims and Christians do indeed worship the same God in the wake of the suspension of Professor Larycia Hawkins from Wheaton College on December 15.

Professor Hawkins, a tenured political science lecturer, caused a stir when she donned the hijab and said Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

Hawkins decided to wear the hijab for the Advent season, in an act of “religious solidarity” with her Muslim neighbours in the wake of the San Bernadino shootings, where two shooters opened fire on a Disability Centre in the California city.

In a Facebook post explaining her decision, Hawkins said, “I stand in human solidarity with my Muslim neighbour because we are formed of the same primordial clay, descendants of the same cradle of humankind.

“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.”

Wheaton College has no stated position on the wearing of headscarves as a gesture of solidarity with those of other religions, but in a statement said that the explanation raised “significant questions regarding the theological implications of statements that Associate Professor of Political Science Dr Larycia Hawkins has made about the relationship of Christianity to Islam.”

The College has placed her on administrative leave, pending the full review to which she is entitled as a tenured faculty member.

Yale theologian Miroslav Volf took to Facebook to object to the decision, saying,Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 9.17.13 am

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 9.14.48 am He followed this up with an article in the Washington Post defending Hawkins, saying, “There isn’t any theological justification for Hawkins’s forced administrative leave. Her suspension is not about theology and orthodoxy. It is about enmity toward Muslims. More precisely, her suspension reflects enmity toward Muslims, taking on a theological guise of concern for Christian orthodoxy.\

“Why are many Christians today unable to say that Christians and Muslims worship the same God but understand God in partly different ways?” asks Volf.

Mark Durie, Adjunct Research Fellow of the Centre for the Study of Islam and Other Faiths at Melbourne School of Theology, says that there are some similarities between God as depicted in the Bible and the God of the Qu’ran, “but the differences are more profound and significant than the similarities. For example, nowhere does the Qur’an say God is good or faithful.

“Larycia Hawkins has confused expressing respect for Islam as a faith with loving Muslims. By all means Christians should love Muslims, but they can do this without declaring belief in Islamic dogmas,” says Durie.

Bernie Power, lecturer in Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at Melbourne School of Theology, says, “I don’t believe that they do [worship the same God].

“Linguistically, the name Allah is taken from the name used [for God] by Christians in the Middle East. So when we lived there, we worshipped Allah. It probably has its origins in the Aramaic elohim.

“Theologically, we’re talking about two quite different entities. Christians believe in God as Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Christians believe that God incarnates, comes down to earth and lives among people. Muslims would reject all those things”

In late 2014, Australians wrestled with a refreshed call to ban the burka on our shores. Adelaide woman Kate Leaney decided to wear a hijab for a week to “stand in solidarity with people tainted by a brush of hatred they do not deserve.” The response from the Christian community was mixed.