One of Mockingbird’s close friends, Aaron Zimmerman, just sent me a disturbing article about the dismissal of a professor at Wheaton College, a well-known Christian university out near Chicago. Apparently, the basis for the firing was the professor’s recent divorce from his wife. Here are some excerpts:
Kent Gramm, a full professor of English at Wheaton College, in Illinois, is amidst two painful separations.
He and his wife are divorcing. And, because he’s choosing not to discuss the terms of that first separation with his employers — to determine whether the divorce falls within what the college considers to be appropriate Scriptural parameters — he’s resigning from Wheaton in what he calls “a mutually agreed-upon separation. And the alternative of it would be to be fired.”
Wheaton’s policy states: “The college has uniformly emphasized the biblical expectation of marriage to be permanent, a picture of our relationship (the bride) to Christ (the bridegroom)” It states that while it does not consider divorce to be “an unpardonable sin…it takes seriously the high expectation set for those who love the Lord…”
The school provost, Stan Jones, explained: If an employee or applicant’s divorce falls outside the acceptable parameters for divorce listed in the policy – desertion or adultery on the part of the partner – a divorce is grounds for firing (or, not hiring). “The policy calls for us to try to make a compassionate, thoughtful evaluation of the circumstances, and we are then in a real bind if a person for whatever reason chooses not to discuss those circumstances,”
Gramm said, it didn’t seem appropriate, “to subject your personal life to the judgment of the college administrators.”
He continued, “I think the students can be given a false picture of what the proper Christian life should be. Whereas many of these students come from households that have been broken by divorce, and if they conform to the overall population, half of them themselves will be going through divorce. And if they are shown that God doesn’t abandon you if you are divorced and they’re shown that this is a part of life and that sometimes it can possibly be the right thing or the best thing, not necessarily the desirable thing, to do, then I think that might help them in their future lives.”
Gramm concluded that he believes the policy on divorce, while intended to ensure modeling of good Christian behavior, is not a good policy. “It’s a complex issue because when a person goes through something like this, getting cut off from their community does not seem like good Christian behavior.”