Dr. Larycia Hawkins — the Wheaton College professor who recently was placed on administrative leave because of her Facebook comments showing solidarity with the Muslim community and saying Christians and Muslims worship the ‘same God’ — has been at the epicenter of much speculation over the future of both Christian liberal arts and the evangelical faith writ large. The administration maintains that her comments seemed to be inconsistent with the college’s Statement of Faith, and earlier this month provost Stan Jones delivered a recommendation to the president to initiate termination. A hearing before the Faculty Personnel Committee on Feb. 11 will result in a recommendation to the president and board of trustees on how to move forward.
A group of Brigham Young University graduates is strengthening its push for students who lose their Mormon faith to retain their spots at the private school.
Students do not have to be Mormon to attend the Provo university, but those who enter as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and later leave the faith face expulsion from BYU.
Activist group FreeBYU filed a complaint last week with the nonprofit accrediting board that evaluates the LDS church-owned school for the U.S. Department of Education. The filing alleges that the policy hinders academic and intellectual freedom at BYU, which is due for a seven-year accreditation review in April.
Organizer Brad Levin says many students who are “in the closet” about changing or leaving their faith must censor themselves in classrooms, online, and in the wider BYU community. Such students should receive the same religious protection as non-Mormons, FreeBYU contends.
“They don’t know what’s going to put them in hot water,” Levin said.
A college that requires the study of both Wordsworth and the Quran for graduation is now the first fully accredited Islamic university in America.
Zaytuna College, a five-year-old institution in Berkeley, Calif., was recognized in March by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, an academic organization that oversees public and private colleges and universities in the U.S.
The accreditation means Zaytuna, which owns only two buildings and has 50 students, is a legitimate institution of higher learning, only a few blocks from its esteemed neighbor, the University of California, Berkeley.
“Being accredited puts us at the same table” as other accredited colleges and universities, said Colleen Keyes, Zaytuna’s vice president of academic affairs.
“It makes us equal partners.”
For faculty — of which Zaytuna has 15 — it lends credibility and status.
Should religious colleges be bound by the same union and labor rules as secular universities? Or be rated by the same criteria?
Those questions and more will be tackled by the presidents of three major universities who say they are united in supporting the values that faith-based schools bring to higher education even as they grapple with government regulations that can challenge them.
For the first time, the top officials of Baylor University, Catholic University of America and Yeshiva University will lead a discussion Feb. 4 in Washington on the “calling” of faith-based universities.
Baylor University President Ken Starr said faith-related schools are charged with helping students learn about “living life purposefully,” which he said goes beyond simply helping students get jobs and be productive citizens.
“That’s very good, but is that enough?” said Starr, who leads the world’s largest Baptist university, in Waco, Texas. “We want to take the conversation to a broader level of what is in fact the education enterprise all about at its very best, at least from our perspective.”
All three leaders see challenges to the religious freedom of their institutions from the U.S. government.
Responding to a real or perceived gap between science and faith, 10 U.S. seminaries will receive a combined $1.5 million in grants to include science in their curricula, the American Association for the Advancement of Science announced Oct. 8.
A diverse set of Christian seminaries will be awarded grants ranging from $90,000 to $200,000 provided by the John Templeton Foundation, which has funded various efforts to bridge science and faith, including $3.75 million to AAAS for the project.
“Many (religious leaders) don’t get a lot of science in their training and yet they become the authority figures that many people in society look up to for advice for all kinds of things, including issues related to science and technology,” said Jennifer Wiseman, director of the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion.
Indeed, evangelical Protestants are more than twice as likely as other Americans to say they would turn to a religious text, a religious leader or people at their congregation if they had a question about science, a study released by AAAS earlier this year suggested.
Theologian Stanley Hauerwas has declined a series of lectures he was scheduled to give at New York’s General Theological Seminary in November in the wake of the crisis roiling the school.
On Oct. 8, the Christian ethicist said he does not want to get in the middle of a controversy involving the resignations or firings of eight faculty.
Two weeks ago, the eight faculty members quit teaching classes and attending official seminary meetings or chapel services until they could sit down with the Board of Trustees.
Hauerwas, who is professor emeritus of divinity and law at Duke Divinity School, said he pulled out of the lecture series so he would not appear to take a side.
“I was looking forward to going because I’ve known of General for my whole academic life, but I had never been there. At one time, it represented a commitment to an Anglo-Catholic tradition with which I’m very sympathetic,” said Hauerwas, who attends an Episcopal church in Chapel Hill, N.C. “I think the situation is one of deep pathos; it’s just pathetic. I’m sorry that I’ve gotten caught in it.”
Several faculty members at the Episcopal Church’s oldest seminary are battling with the school’s leadership, although neither side agrees whether they quit, were fired or staged a walkout.
General Theological Seminary in Manhattan is the only seminary overseen by the national church. Last week, eight faculty decided to stop teaching classes, attending official seminary meetings or attending chapel services until they could sit down with the Board of Trustees.
The dean and president, Kurt Dunkle, wrote a letter to students saying the Board of Trustees’ accepted the eight faculty members’ resignations. But faculty member Andrew Irving wrote to students saying the professors never suggested they would resign.
“We wish to underline that we have not resigned,” Irving wrote, suggesting the group sought legal counsel. “Our letters did not say that we would resign. We requested meetings with the Board.”
The Rev. Ellen Tillotson, an Episcopal priest in Connecticut and a GTS board member, wrote that it has become clear that the eight faculty have been planning a walkout.