The discussion of Larycia Hawkin’s situation continues.
Rod Dreher thinks Wheaton is right to protect its theological borders since it has refused employment to Roman Catholics:
Wheaton does police its margins carefully. Catholics are not allowed to teach there, not because Wheaton’s leadership think Catholics are bad people, but because they do not believe a faithful Catholic can affirm the institution’s standards. If I were a professor, as an Orthodox Christian, I couldn’t teach there either. Do I think that is excessive? Probably. But I admire Wheaton’s willingness to take a hard stand, even when they are mocked by outsiders. It requires the kind of courage and confidence that one doesn’t often see among Christian churches and institutions these days, and that will be desperately needed in the years to come, by all of us.
But Noah Toly, one of the first Wheaton faculty wonders if the goal posts move when Wheaton talks about theological borders:
The standard to which Dr. Hawkins is being held is that of “theological clarity” in embodying the identity of the college and Statement of Faith. It is immensely important to recognize this. Faculty may hold various controversial positions within the bounds of the Statement of Faith. The more complex those positions, the more they demand a sort of clear articulation – otherwise, they invite misunderstanding. The standard of theological clarity is not, in and of itself, problematic. But the operationalization of that standard is fraught. (Adam Laats’ commentary on this is good, if slightly overstated.) Is the same level of nuance, subtlety, complexity, and elaboration required of everyone? Or, given the insistence that theological clarity is particularly important when we participate in various movements and initiatives, is the same level of nuance, subtlety, complexity, and elaboration required regardless of the political, social, and cultural affinities of those movements? Has the college itself transparently offered faculty and other constituents the same level of nuance, subtlety, complexity, and elaboration that now seems required of us?
Exactly. This is why I hope Wheaton does not eliminate Hawkins from its faculty. The college is mainly “evangelical,” but faculty have hardly agreed on the meaning of the institution’s minimalist statement of faith.
Dreher also invokes a piece by Alan Jacobs written almost a decade ago when Wheaton let go a faculty member who converted to Roman Catholicism. Jacobs wondered if Wheaton was wise to rely on its own brand of conservative Christianity:
…throughout much of American history and late into the twentieth century, evangelicals and Catholics had little to do with one another. They came, by and large, from different ethnic groups; they lived in different neighborhoods and even in different regions of the country; they went to different schools—in short, they were socialized into American culture in dramatically different ways. Throughout much of its history Wheaton College’s leaders would have reacted with horror at the thought of Catholics on the faculty—but they would have been highly unlikely to entertain that thought in the first place. Catholic scholars would have been equally unlikely to think of teaching at Wheaton. Duane Litfin is right to say that Wheaton is getting hammered for taking a position that, as recently as thirty years ago, scarcely anyone on either side of the Reformational divide would have questioned.
But times have changed. And here is where the correctness of Hochschild’s position comes in. He is not the only Catholic to look at Wheaton’s Statement of Faith and think, “Yes, that suits me very well.” Having served on hiring committees a number of times in Wheaton’s English department, I have seen dozens of applications from Catholic scholars who see nothing in Wheaton’s self-description that would rule them out.
But I sure wish Jacobs had considered where Roman Catholics may be coming from when looking at Wheaton’s doctrinal affirmation. After all, their bishops’ ecumenical discussions on justification have been with the most liberal sector of Lutheran communions:
Acting as it does as a summary and analysis of five decades of Lutheran-Catholic dialogue, 2015’s Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry, and Eucharist will undoubtedly be a helpful touchstone in future ecumenical discussions between the two traditions. For that reason, the representatives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Bishop’s Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) who authored the work are to be commended. The document is worthy of careful reading.
Of course, it is also important to note that the synthesis presented here represents an understanding of Lutheranism not necessarily shared by all churches who claim the name. The Lutheran side of these dialogues has been primarily represented by churches of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). Other Lutheran churches, like those represented by the International Lutheran Council (ILC), may not agree in every respect with the Lutheran position as presented in these past dialogues, even as they praise other elements of the discussions.
Meanwhile, the bishop responsible for identifying doctrine infallibly helped to produce a video that has him walking along side religious expressions far more objectionable than the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.