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Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins was removed from her leave of absence and provost Stan Jones apologized for mishandling her case before withdrawing the recommendation that she be terminated. However, Hawkins and President Ryken of Wheaton announced in a joint statement that she and the school had decided to part ways after reaching a point of reconciliation. On Friday 78 of the school’s 200 professors had asked the school to restore Dr. Hawkins.
Why this story matters for church leaders:
At the heart of the Dr. Hawkins story is the role of statements of faith and policies for staff. Hawkins was ultimately reinstated because she did not technically violate the statement of faith, but she and Wheaton ultimately parted ways over, what at least appear to be, finer points of theology about the nature of God. Church leaders should consider:
- Does your doctrinal statement cover the essentials of what you believe? While Hawkins submitted a statement noting that the God of Christians is different from Allah, she also noted the similarities which raised alarms with the Wheaton board and administration. However, Hawkins still affirmed the school’s statement of faith which did not address these finer points. Are you and your staff on the same page on doctrine?
- Do you have clear policies for handling theological disagreements? This story reminds church leaders to set out a clear process for handling disagreements on theology and practice with your staff.
- What does reconciliation look like in difficult situations? While Hawkins and Wheaton’s President Ryken remained divided over this situations, neither side disparaged the other and ended up creating a joint statement on working toward reconciliation.
What is your plan for handling theological disagreements?
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