In a separate email to the faculty, Wheaton provost Stan Jones said in an email Saturday that he has withdrawn charges for firing Hawkins and asked Hawkins for forgiveness.
“I asked Dr. Hawkins for her forgiveness for the ways I contributed to the fracture of our relationship, and to the fracture of Dr. Hawkins’ relationship with the College,” he wrote.
Jones wrote that he apologized for his “lack of wisdom and collegiality” in his original contact with Hawkins, which was through another colleague, as opposed to through direct contact.
Hawkins was placed on administrative leave on Dec. 15 after she published a Facebook post suggesting that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. The statement set off a wave of controversy across the country amid larger debates about the role of Muslims in America.
The college said at the time that her comments raised significant theological questions and requested the professor provide a theological statement. Faculty are required to sign a statement of faith, which some felt Hawkins could not affirm after making her comments. Several faculty raised questions about the college’s process during the controversy, which Ryken noted in his campus-wide email.
“Because concerns have been raised about many aspects of this complex situation—including concerns related to academic freedom, due process, the leaking of confidential information, possible violations of faculty governance, and gender and racial discrimination—I have asked the Board of Trustees to conduct a thorough review,” Ryken said in his email.
After Hawkins issued her theological statement, Jones requested further clarification, and upon the request, she declined to continue the conversation, telling The Post, “I don’t want to be subjected to a theological inquisition.” Jones then issued a notice for termination-for-cause, which he has now revoked.
Saturday’s news came one day after 78 current Wheaton faculty members signed a letter petitioning for Hawkins’ reinstatement, and after the school’s 12-person Faculty Council, which represents the faculty, issued a similar letter, outlining their concerns with Hawkins’ termination proceedings. There are 211 faculty.
Jones said in the email that while he still has concerns that Hawkins’ theological statements “raised important questions,” he revoked his termination charges because of the “deficiencies” in his early responses, and recognizing that Hawkins’ theological response was a “promising start” toward the conversation he wished to hold.
Hawkins remains on administrative leave, a matter, Jones said in his email, Wheaton’s president Philip Ryken will resolve.
Some professors at the college seemed initially elated when the provost’s email went out before the president’s email.
Political science professor Leah Anderson, who is Hawkins’s department chair, said that faculty she spoke with on Saturday were rejoicing after receiving Jones’s email but before she received Ryken’s email stating that Hawkins would leave the college.
“We’ve been hallelujah-ing,” Anderson said. “Everybody is just so relieved. I’m so impressed with the provost because I just can’t imagine the courage it took to reverse that decision.”
After the email went out stating Hawkins and the college would part ways, psychology professor Bill Struthers wrote on Facebook that he “will be wearing black in class the rest of the semester. Let the lament begin.”
Hawkins’s December comments that she would wear the hijab in solidarity with Muslim women during Advent, and her comment — Christians and Muslims worship the same God — became especially controversial in evangelical circles. She received criticism from leading evangelicals, including evangelist Franklin Graham, and was defended by others, including theologian Miroslav Volf.
The underlying debate that took place among evangelicals was complex, centered on how the Christian belief in a Trinitarian God — God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit — differs from the God of Islam and Judaism.
Theologians have debated whether Christians and Muslims understand God in the same way, and if so, whether they worship the same “one God.” Do they define the word “worship” in the same way?
But those questions have been set aside amid the personnel dispute that had faculty concerned about the process the college used. Hawkins is one of Wheaton’s five black tenured professors, who make up 2 percent of the faculty, and its only full-time black female professor.
Calls to Wheaton’s spokeswoman and Hawkins were not immediately returned on Saturday. In a statement from college on Saturday, it said that Wheaton officials and Hawkins will not speak to the press about their relationship or their reconciliation before the press conference on Feb. 10, and there will be no questions taken at or after the press conference.