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Wheaton College Is in the News--Again

By now, many Americans have likely read the recent story about Wheaton College titled “When the ‘Harvard of Christian Schools’ Goes Woke,” written by Tim Scheiderer and published on the Fox News website. At least as noteworthy as the Fox piece, however, is Wheaton College President Philip Ryken’s response—a response that, in light of his controversy-riddled tenure provides yet more reason to question Ryken's judgment and leadership. It is not Scheiderer's piece that demands a response; it is Ryken's petulant email.


Here are some of the concerns Scheiderer addressed:

In the 2000s, the education department commended the teachings of Marxists. In 2016, 78 faculty members voiced support for a fellow professor who stated Christians and Muslims worship the same God. And five years later, the school held its first ceremony recognizing graduating minority students sans White students. And currently, Wheaton permits its professors to teach critical race theory. 
Wheaton … instructs the students not to use the word, "service." Instead, they are to use "sacrificial co-laboring." The reason given is service "may invoke power dynamics across socio-economic, racial, and cultural lines." 
According to biblical anthropology, a person’s sex is known by what is seen, not by what one feels. An endowed chair in Wheaton’s psychology program believes this is the ideal way for humans to exist: men identifying as men and women as women. But, he says, in an imperfect world riddled with weakness, this may not always be the case. Hence, going against one’s God-given sex "is not a moral choice." It is a result of weakness. 

In response, Ryken sent a prickly email to all faculty insinuating that Scheiderer lacked ethics:

[A]n opinion piece by a freelance writer that appeared on the FOX News website, makes various claims about the College that are either false or misleading. The mischaracterizing post seems to be cobbled from out-of-context items found on the Internet. The author does not name any sources or give any citations for his many contentions.
The writer attempted to reach out to our marketing department approximately a month ago, when he wrote a phone text that began, “I am writing for the Wall Street Journal” and ended with “My deadline is tomorrow at noon.” Our spokesperson questioned Mr. Scheiderer’s credentials, and Mr. Scheiderer admitted that he was actually a freelance writer attempting to “pitch” an idea to the WSJ Opinion Section. A representative from the WSJ confirmed that he was not an employee. Although the WSJ did not run his piece, evidently he was able to have it appear on a FOX News page.
Contrary to what appears on the web piece, Wheaton College remains fully committed to Christian service—which we embrace as “service” in our very mission statement—to biblical orthodoxy and Christ-centered education, including in matters of human sexuality, gender identity, and race relations. For accurate information about our convictions, please visit our webpage on Institutional CommitmentsI would discourage members of our community from engaging further with an incendiary op/ed that fails to meet minimal standards for journalistic accuracy.

Take note of Ryken’s manipulative diction: “mischaracterizing,” “cobbled,” “out-of-context items found on the Internet,” and “admitted” (the implication of “admitted” is that Scheiderer had intentionally concealed something).


In high dudgeon, Ryken griped about the absence of source names and citations. Maybe he should ask himself why some Wheaton professors are unwilling to speak as boldly as the fearless assistant professor Nathan Cartagena does on controversial topics related to race or sex or gender.


My understanding is that theologically orthodox faculty members whose views don’t align with those of the wokesters and who are discouraged by the machinations of the left-leaning “woke” staff and faculty steering Wheaton off course are afraid to speak out publicly for fear of personal or professional repercussions.


As for the absence of citations, Fox provides hyperlinks only to their own material—not to any outside sources.


Not to worry, I may be able to smooth Ryken’s ruffled feathers by providing some sources, citations, and context.


The psychology professor to whom Scheiderer refers is Mark Yarhouse who over many years has made a number of troubling statements regarding sexuality and “gender.”


For example, the Wheaton College website has posted an article by Yarhouse titled “Understanding Transgender Phenomenon,” originally published in Christianity Today in 2015, in which Yarhouse repeatedly refers to a gender dysphoric man who pretends to be a woman by incorrect/false pronouns and defends such practice by implying that it’s the only way to demonstrate compassion and by mocking those who would oppose participating in a fiction:

If Sara [a man whose birth name was Sawyer] shares her name with me, as a clinician and Christian, I use it. I do not use this moment to shout “Integrity!” by using her male name or pronoun, which clearly goes against that person’s wishes. It is an act of respect, even if we disagree with the choice, to let the person determine what they want to be called. If we can’t grant them that, it’s going to be next to impossible to establish any sort of relationship with them.

The practice of using incorrect pronouns when referring to cross-sex passers is strongly opposed by many renowned Christian scholars, including Dr. Robert Gagnon and Rosaria Butterfield.


Yarhouse—a tricksy rhetorician—also said,

Redemption is not found by measuring how well a person’s gender identity aligns with their biological sex.

True, but repentance—as distinct from redemptionentails confessing and turning away from sinful behaviors, regardless of the persistence and power of the feelings that impel those behaviors. Churches, while welcoming all, ought not countenance egregiously sinful public behaviors in church services.


Scheiderer’s reference to the education department’s document is a reference to the “Wheaton College Teacher Education Program Conceptual Framework, 2004: Preparing Teachers as Agents of Change” for which I have provided a link so as not to be accused of cobbling together out-of-context items found on the Internet.


The experts cited favorably in this since-deleted document include, among others, domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, Brazilian Marxist Paulo Freire (misspelled throughout the document), and Richard Rorty. Concerned readers can access the entire document in which this quote is found:

Teaching for social justice recognizes the relationship between individual identity and the learning process. …  As the unit works to prepare teachers who can teach for social justice, a number of significant influences are addressed. One of these influences is the student’s race and ethnicity. … Other factors include gender.”

Scheiderer mentions 78 Wheaton professors who supported a former professor who said Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Ryken doesn’t need a citation for this claim. He knows this is a reference to the controversy over Larycia Hawkins that drew national attention.


Hawkins made this statement when she announced that during the entire 2015 Advent season, she would wear a hijab, the traditional head-covering required of Muslim women when in public. Hawkins viewed this as an act of “embodied politics, embodied solidarity” as opposed to what she deems “theoretical solidarity.” Wandering around America wearing a hijab was Hawkins’ rather peculiar application of James 2:26: “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”


Ryken huffs and puffs about Scheiderer mentioning the language of “service.” Scheiderer took his quote from a Wheaton College freshman orientation document 2023-2024 for which he provided a screenshot (https://x.com/TimScheiderer/status/1753078881131864519?s=20) on his X account. The freshman orientation document says,

You may find a conspicuous lack of “service” oriented language in this article: instead, we opt to co-labor with others sacrificially. As sacrificial co-laborers, we see service as a term that may invoke power dynamics across socioeconomic, racial, or cultural lines.

Since Ryken sent a manipulative and misleading email to hundreds of Wheaton employees in which he attempted to malign the character of Scheiderer, it seems fair to provide some biographical context about Mr. Scheiderer available on his website.


Scheiderer is a freelance journalist and editor who holds an M.Div. from Southern Seminary. He has worked for ABC News, Fox News, and CNN. His essays and articles have been published by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Desiring God, the Gospel Coalition, cslewis.com, and Mere Orthodoxy


Since Ryken has raised the issue of character, it seems fair (and wise) to raise similar questions regarding Ryken's character and leadership, including during events that took place at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia when Ryken served as senior pastor from 1995-2010. During that period, the church was embroiled in a sex abuse scandal that was egregiously mishandled, if not covered up.


Former organist and music director Paul Jones was accused of sexually abusing multiple college-age men during his sixteen-year tenure at Tenth Presbyterian. In 2014, four years after Ryken left to become president of Wheaton, Tenth Presbyterian Church issued an apology for its failures in 2001 when Ryken was senior pastor. This apology can be found in the final report (pages 28-30) of the Independent Investigation of Tenth Presbyterian Church conducted by GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in Christian Environments) just published on November 21, 2023:

[W]e erred in not understanding [the victims’] predicament, in not investigating further, in not interviewing the young men separately in a neutral venue, and asking them if they had suffered similar treatment, after giving strong assurances that they were safe to speak up and that steps would be taken to ensure there were no academic or personal or future career repercussions for speaking the truth...

While commending the apology, GRACE continued,

Given the knowledge of the abuse of Paul Jones, a report to authorities and escalation to the session and Presbytery was also warranted. Further, Tenth’s failure to remove Jones from his position and access to Tenth’s music interns enabled Jones to perpetrate additional misconduct and placed individuals under Tenth’s care in danger.

Perhaps President Ryken can provide some context that makes this report less disturbing.


Many who love Wheaton College, donate to Wheaton, have children enrolled at Wheaton, or are considering shelling out buckets of ducats to send their children to Wheaton want to know why under Ryken's leadership, controversies endlessly swirl and the ship drifts leftward.

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