What Wheaton College learned from Stan Jones's mistakes...

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During the advent season last year, a tenured African American professor at Wheaton College named Larycia Hawkins wore a scarf on her head as her own personal declaration of solidarity with Muslims. Dr. Hawkins explained her actions on FB: "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."

Quickly, Provost Stan Jones met with Prof. Hawkins and she was put on administrative leave. Dr. Jones had served as provost since 1996, but his discipline of Prof. Hawkins's public heresy brought so much hostility from faculty members and students down on his head that he later announced he would resign as provost and return to teaching. After a couple months, Wheaton hired a woman as his replacement...

This explanation to introduce a report released this evening by Wheaton's trustees telling their constituents what lessons they learned from what their report refers to as "a perfect storm." Titled Trustee Community Report, if you read it, you'll find out the only one who did anything wrong whom Wheaton's trustees are willing to name is Dr. Jones. You'll also find out that Wheaton's trustees, administration, and faculty are absolutely as committed to Jesus, the Bible, racial diversity, women's rights, and humility as they always have been. Especially racial diversity, women's rights, and humility. In their report and accompanying short e-mail, they speak of their humility eight times.

Just a few quotes. First this which all of us already knew:

...the Review Task Force found no evidence that decisions were driven by influential donors or specific budget issues.

Among Evangelicals, money never has anything to do with anything. Which is such a relief.

How about this brilliant sentence written by a tenured prof in the English Department (maybe):

Tension between the Christian convictions of the College and areas where these beliefs conflict with public priorities will require an ongoing institutional commitment to explaining and living out our mission and unique contribution to higher education in an increasingly pluralistic society.

Then this thrilling leap toward the enlightenment of the human race:

...unconscious bias and unintentional partiality may have been present in areas of both race and gender with respect to the interactions between the College and Dr. Hawkins. Therefore, we affirm that the recommendations reflect a commitment to identifying and learning how to overcome unconscious bias wherever it may be in our community.

If they want to begin identifying "unconscious bias wherever it may be," somebody better be the designated conscious guy. Otherwise, their bias will remain unconscious.

Matter of fact, how do they know they have unconscious bias? When and how did they become conscious of it? And if they did become conscious of it, is it still proper to excuse it as "unconscious bias?" Wouldn't it be better to call it "conscious and intentional bias?" Or better yet, "conscious and intentional racism and sexism."

Here's the e-mail announcing the report's release:

* * *

Dear Timothy,

President Ryken and I have just concluded meetings with our faculty and staff regarding the Review Task Force findings and recommendations related to the College's parting of ways with Dr. Larycia Hawkins last year. For the past several months, the Wheaton College Board of Trustees and the RTF have heard the heart cries of our college family and we grieve over the pain and confusion amongst our communities. We humbly acknowledge that these events occurred under our watch.

It is our hope that these events, and this review, will lead to understanding, growth, and important change for the Wheaton community, in order to implement necessary improvements to our practices and protocols. We are committed to gaining greater clarity about how to approach and process uncertainties surrounding the relationship of the Statement of Faith and Community Covenant to academic freedom. We maintain a firm commitment to the mission of Wheaton College, a dedication to theological orthodoxy, a commitment to fair and transparent processes, and an ongoing mandate to deepen ethnic diversity in our institution.

The Board of Trustees has requested that the Trustee Community Report be posted in full at wheaton.edu/trusteecommunityreport. This communication is based on the findings of the Review Task Force report, and summarizes the recommendations that we believe will be the most productive and critical to learning from this experience. As you have questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out using this form. We will review every comment. While we will not be able to respond to every comment, your perspective will be taken into consideration.

We are beyond grateful for your prayers and your patience over the past many months. We find courage in the fact that our Father loves to bring broken things in his creation back together. We present this summary praying that it will further his renewing and restorative work among us.

To God's glory alone,

Dr. Greg Waybright '74, M.A. '78

Trustee Chair of the Review Task Force


Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!