5,000 signatures reached
To: President Philip Ryken, Provost Stanton Jones, and Dean Dorothy Chappell
Multifaith sign-on: Reinstate Wheaton Professor Hawkins
We write you as American faith leaders, people of faith, and people of moral courage, asking you to reinstate Professor Larycia Alaine Hawkins. A respected scholar in the field of political science and a faith leader of moral courage, Prof. Hawkins embodies the best qualities of the evangelical academy. We have all been inspired by Prof. Hawkins’ embodied solidarity with the Muslim community during days when Muslims are experiencing discrimination and violence.
Why is this important?
Our hearts broke when we learned that Professor Larycia Hawkins – the first tenured African American woman at Wheaton College since 1860, and the only full-time African American woman on faculty – was put on leave after wearing a hijab in solidarity with Muslims in America. She wrote on Facebook, “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.”
While the College has framed the issue around theological concerns on whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God, it has handled the situation in ways that unveil issues of race, gender and religion. Teaching in the evangelical academy is difficult for people of color, especially black women. The white leaders of evangelical institutions need to take the time to listen and learn from black women. The Black Lives Matter Movement, led by black women, is bringing to light both the suffering and hope of a growing faith-rooted movement for justice.
As people of faith, we also cannot be bystanders to the rising tide of anti-Muslim sentiment in our nation, including the spike in acts of hate and violence against Americans who are Muslim, Sikh, Arab, and South Asian. We were all inspired by Prof. Hawkins' brave statement of embodied solidarity. Her courageous composure is a powerful testimony that love, not fear, will have the last word.
Forged in the fires of the movement to abolish race-based slavery, Wheaton College has a historic commitment to standing in solidarity with those who are hurting. As the prophet Zechariah says “Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor” (7:10). As people of faith we should applaud Prof. Hawkins’ decision to stand in solidarity with those who are experiencing violence and misunderstanding. Instead, by firing her and revoking her tenure, an unchristian message would be sent that it's okay to punish someone who is using their body as a holy sanctuary against hatred and fear.
We understand that you are seeking to deal with this situation through the doctrines and protocols of the College, but we call on you to attend to a higher judge, your conscience, and Jesus’ Parable of the Sheep and Goats. Jesus says we will be judged based on how we treat the least and the lost: “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ (Matthew 25:40).
Jesus clearly exercises solidarity with those on the margins, calling us to follow his example as he aligns himself with the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick and prisoner. As people of faith and moral courage, it is vital that we stand in embodied solidarity with African Americans, Muslims, and women.
Wheaton College has the opportunity to shine like the sun as an example of what moral courage and compassionate justice look like in the diverse community of creation. Our earnest prayer is that you will do what is right and reinstate Prof. Hawkins as Associate Professor of Political Science. In reconciling with her, Wheaton will reclaim its prophetic legacy through modeling just and compassionate devotion to ‘Christ and the Kingdom.’
Rev. Dr. Peter Goodwin Heltzel (Wheaton, Class of 1994)
Rev. Dr. William Barber II
Rabbi Sharon Brous
Sister Simone Campbell
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño
Dr. Sharon Groves
Lisa Sharon Harper
Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson
Rabbi Stephanie Kolin
Rev. Dr. Jacqui J. Lewis
Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews
Rev. Brian McLaren
Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III
Bishop Gene Robinson
Rev. Dr. John Vaughn
Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock