Wheaton College will create an endowed scholarship for peace and conflict studies in the name of former political science professor Larycia Hawkins, school President Philip Ryken announced Wednesday during a news conference with Hawkins in Chicago.
Ryken said reconciliation is not always easy or perfect, but the college and Hawkins are “moving forward in genuine friendship, wishing each other well and wanting to bless each other in our work.”
“We want to learn everything that we can from this situation,” he said. “We hope to become a better, stronger community with a shared understanding of academic freedom in the context of Christian convictions.”
Hawkins stirred controversy at the evangelical school and was placed on leave in December when she said Christians and Muslims worship the same God. The school was moving to fire her until it announced Saturday that the two sides “found a mutual place of resolution and reconciliation” and “reached a confidential agreement under which they will part ways.”
The debate over Hawkins’ comments continues to resonate throughout the Wheaton College community. Even as Ryken and Hawkins stood together in Chicago, roughly two dozen students, alumni and religious leaders were gathering outside the school’s Edman Chapel to announce the launch of a nationwide fast that calls upon the Wheaton community and other evangelical Christian institutions to “confess and repent of the sins of racism, sexism and Islamophobia, and recognize that all humans have dignity and are created equal in the eyes of God.”
As president, Ryken said he is committed to restoring “what is lost and repair what is broken” on campus. To do that, he has asked the college’s board of trustees to review ways the college can improve how it addresses faculty and personnel issues in the future, particularly when questions arise that relate to the college’s statement of faith. He added that the school stands for religious freedom and against the repression of anyone, including Muslims.
“We humbly ask for the prayers and friendship of anyone who seeks for us to grow in our spiritual and academic mission,” he said.
Ryken thanked Hawkins for developing the college’s new certificate in peace and conflict studies, a program that the college is committed to continuing.
“Each year we will invite a scholar from the Jewish or Muslim community for respectful dialogue about interfaith relations,” he said. “And today, I announce that in the name of Dr. Hawkins we are establishing an endowed scholarship for interns to pursue a summer program or project in peace and conflict studies.”
Hawkins said she has been on “a difficult journey” between Advent and Lent, when the controversy was happening, but Jesus proved to be a rock.
“When you wake up in the midst of what seems like a dark night of the soul, with a song in your heart, you have something in you, something you can scarcely believe yourself, because the world didn’t give it to you and the world can’t take it away,” she said, her voice cracking.
Supporters said they were happy to see Hawkins’ “workplace campaign” come to an end, but the day wasn’t without grief.
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SOURCE: Daily Herald