Hijab-wearing Wheaton professor could lose her job as talks break down

Hawkins has been associate professor of Wheaton College in suburban Chicago for seven years.Facebook / Larycia Alaine Hawkins

Talks between the evangelical Wheaton College and Larycia Hawkins have broken down and the teacher may lose her job there, according to reports from Chicago.

Hawkins was suspended as a teacher at Wheaton after saying on social media that Muslims and Christians worship the same God and committing to wearing a hijab in Advent as a sign of solidarity with oppressed Mulims. She has stressed her theological orthodoxy and restated her adherence to the college's statement of faith and her treatment by the college has led to a widespread outcry.

The Chicago Sun-Times quotes a spokeswoman for Arise Chicago, an organisation that campaigns for workers rights and has been supporting Hawkins, as saying that the associate professor is moving towards termination rather than reconciliation.

Selly Ruzicka, Arise Chicago's director of operations, told the Sun-Times: "Talks have broken down at Wheaton. Dr Hawkins submitted her theological statement as requested by the College. However, her suspension still stands, and it appears that the College is moving toward terminating her employment. Dr Hawkins stands by her actions, and is continuing her act of Christian embodied solidarity."

Hawkins posted on Facebook on December 10 that she stood in 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." She was suspended on December 15.

She gave an interview on Monday to Chicago's public television WTTW in which she defended her position. She said: "The notion of the religious aspects of my statement being controversial, it wasn't a theological treatise, it was simply a Facebook post inviting people into a bigger narrative about embodied solidarity with Muslims, who are currently being maligned and mistreated for their religious devotion."

She stood by her statement that Christians worshiped the same God as Muslims, but said: "In no way did I make a moral equivalency between Jesus and Muhammad and Islam and Christianity. That would be offensive to my Muslim friends and it would be offensive to my Christian friends to pretend that the religions are the same or they are not different, either in practice or theology."

Hawkins also denied that her comments violated Wheaton's statement of faith.

"What I said in my post has been affirmed by the Christian church for centuries and is affirmed by many evangelicals, prominent evangelicals that have even spoken on Wheaton's campus [and] Yale theologian Miroslav Volf," she said. 

She also pointed out that Wheaton College trustee Timothy George, who is also the dean of the Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, had written on the question of whether "the God of Muhammad" is the "father of Jesus".

George, she said, had written about "the differences but also the similarities between Islam and Christianity, especially in terms of the historical roots". He concluded that the answer was both "yes" and "no". 

While she said that both sides had demonstrated "love and respect", she stressed what she said was her right to decide the question for herself. She told her interviewer: "Evangelicals believe in something called the priesthood of the believer, as do most all Protestants. This was an essential tenet of Martin Luther — the idea that it is not only the Church who interprets Scripture but God gives us the Holy Spirit to interpret the Scripture. Nothing that Wheaton cited in the statement that you read do I deny."