A former Wheaton College employee hired to support gay and lesbian students on the campus has claimed she was forced to resign because of the college's concerns over how her views would impact on donor support.
Wheaton has been under the spotlight in recent months because of its treatment of one of its staff members, Larycia Hawkins, who wore a hijab during Advent in solidarity with Muslims and who said Christians and Muslims "worship the same God".
In an article for Time magazine, Julie Rodgers says she was hired by Wheaton in June 2014 as a gay Christian with conservative views who could sign its 'Community Covenant', which says marriage is between a man and a woman and sexual expression is reserved for that relationship alone.
She claims she was regarded as the "ideal candidate" to support gay and lesbian students at the college. However, she says, she was repeatedly asked by senior college figures to limit her engagement on social media and was warned by its president, Philip Ryken, that her ministry – which he praised – had attracted criticism from alumni and donors.
She said: "Wheaton has shown flashes of courage and their choice to hire me was a brave one. What's sad is that they caved, capitulating to the fears of one part of their very broad constituency."
However, the college issued a robust statement for Time defending its treatment of her. It says: "Like all Wheaton College employees, Julie Rodgers signed and agreed to live by the College's Community Covenant and Statement of Faith, and it was understood that she was voluntarily aligned with the College's theological and moral commitments.
"Early in her time at Wheaton, it became clear that Ms Rodgers did not fully realize the extent to which some conflated her public statements and the College's views. For that reason, College administrators encouraged her to learn the College community so that she would understand the impact of her writing, speaking and social media activity. They asked that in referring to herself as gay, Ms. Rodgers also be clear about her moral commitments related to the Community Covenant."
It adds: "Ms Rodgers' resignation came as a surprise to President Ryken and to the College community generally. She was not asked, encouraged, or pressured to resign. Her communication of her resignation followed the publication of a blog post that announced a significant change in her views on integrating Christian beliefs and same-sex issues."