At a press conference today in downtown Chicago, Wheaton College president Philip Ryken and professor Larycia Hawkins addressed their reconciliation and her departure.
Meanwhile, back on the school's suburban campus, a small group of students, alumni, and others disappointed with the outcome staged an Ash Wednesday protest and launched a Lenten fast of "embodied solidarity."
Followers of the Illinois school's "same God" controversy were surprised by weekend announcements that provost Stanton Jones had withdrawn his recommendation that Hawkins's tenure be revoked, yet the associate professor of political science would still be leaving Wheaton after nine years of service.
At today's press conference, which emcee C. J. Hawking, executive director of Arise Chicago, described as a "historic moment filled with grace and filled with reconciliation," Wheaton faculty, students, alumni, and observers received few additional details.
Ryken described Wheaton's community as "a place of grace where relationships are marked by hope, courage, honesty, repentance, and reconciliation." He praised Hawkins for "her membership in our community and her sincere faith in Jesus Christ."
Ryken said he was "saddened by the brokenness we have experienced in our relationship and the suffering this has caused on our campus and beyond," and was "grateful to come to a place of resolution and reconciliation ... by Jesus Christ."
"We are moving on in genuine friendship," he said, "trusting as a campus for God to restore what’s been lost and repair what has been broken.”
This does not mean that "reconciliation is easy or that it is always perfect," he said. "Saying that Wheaton College is reconciled with Larycia Hawkins, we’re not saying that everyone on every side of this conflict is thoroughly satisfied, nor are we saying that we simply move on without addressing the issues that brought us to this place."
Ryken said Wheaton's board of trustees will conduct a thorough review with faculty to be better prepared when future issues arise over the school's statement of faith. "We want to learn everything that we can from this situation, to be a better and stronger community with a shared understanding of academic freedom in the context of our Christian convictions."
Ryken recalled how, in his inaugural address five years ago, he said "no community needs more grace than Wheaton College."
"Recent events have reminded us of our need for forgiveness, and the widespread attention that we have received shows that Wheaton College matters to the church, alumni, the academic community, and our neighbors," he said. "We humbly ask for the prayers and friendship of anyone who seeks for us to grow."
Jones was scheduled to speak after Ryken, but was unable to attend the conference.
Hawkins was the last of six speakers. She explained again the motivation behind her December 10 Facebook post announcing she would wear a hijab during Advent. It was intended as an act of solidarity with Muslims, but instead became a national flashpoint.
"It’s not rocket science to love our neighbor," Hawkins said. "It's the greatest yearning of our hearts to be united with humans.