... and all the people rejoiced!

From an email sent out today:

“The Board of Trustees of Wheaton College has announced that President Duane Litfin will retire from his position in mid-2010. As Wheaton's seventh president since its founding in 1860, Dr. Litfin has served the College for almost 17 years. ...

The Board of Trustees has appointed a Presidential Selection Committee to conduct the search and selection process for Wheaton's eighth president. They invite nominations, expressions of interest, and applications for the position of President.

Please visit www.wheaton.edu/presidentialselection for more information including selection procedure, presidential profile, committee members, prayer guide, and frequently asked questions.”

In all fairness to Pres. Litfin, he did a half-way decent job. He is certainly a brilliant fundraiser. It’s just too bad that his fundamentalist and dispensational theological views led to some really poor decision-making on his part and a culture at Wheaton that was largely inhospitable to progressive political and theological work. Let’s pray that the trustees can find a suitable replacement that will bring Wheaton College back into the vanguard of evangelical scholarship.


Evan said…
Whatever my personal stance on an issue, I do tend to be more stodgy and old-fashioned with regard to institutional authority, which means that I tend to end up in the position of defending good old Duane when he's criticized by Wheaton folks (sometimes to my wife's chagrin!).

It's difficult for me to criticize Litfin for how he steers the college, because even when I disagree with him, I come back to the fact that I didn't grow up within evangelicalism, and I don't feel like it's really my place to say that he's doing a bad job of cultivating a particular form of it at Wheaton.

I haven't at all gotten the impression that his dispensationalism has effected the way he has run things, though- maybe this was more of a problem before my time. He has recently come under some fire because of faculty issues (Hochschild, Gramm), but I feel like he handled the situation in a relatively open manner, and it's always been a dispute along the lines of letter/spirit of the law and how to move forward in light of that. The disagreements have not been based upon malicious purposes as far as I can tell.

I also think that "progressive political and theological work" has not faced any great inhospitality here lately. Lindy Scott ran CACE before he left, Christians for Biblical Equality has been a presence on campus, SoulForce was here, the Israel/Palestine conflict has struck up lively debate, Zizek was here, Mark Lewis Taylor was here, feminist theology classes are offered, etc. etc. I mean, Wheaton is a pretty conservative place, sure. But I don't know if there's really been any strong inhospitality towards progressive voices, at least not for a while.
Evan said…
I will offer a token criticism of Litfin on one thing, though... the absurd (non)alcoholic beverages policy.

Undergrads aren't allowed to drink here, and that's fair enough. Conservative, but it's not a crazy-fundie policy or anything. Most undergrads are under 21 anyway, so it shouldn't much matter.

As undergrads, though, the crew team thought that surely we could drink non-alcoholic beer at a regatta and still remain in good standing with the College's rules.

Nope. Somehow, a non-alcoholic drink that had less alcohol in it than cough syrup was deemed
verboten by the powers that be. I didn't personally bear the brunt of this enforcement, but my predecessor as captain was forced to step down from leadership over the fiasco.

This sort of ridiculousness will, I hope, get better over time.

Thanks for the comments. Granted, things have gotten better in recent years, though in part that's because the profs who challenged Litfin the most have left the college, so Litfin is able to lead without much opposition. I was also there at an earlier time when things were worse. The firing of Bolyanatz over teaching evolution was the first of many decisions rooted in ideology rather than good scholarship. The firing of Hochschild (a personal friend of mine) was simply inexcusable, and borderline illegal. The statement of faith had no anti-Catholic bias, and Litfin asserted that he had the sole right to interpret the statement as he saw fit. And he saw fit to exclude any Catholic from teaching at the school. Not only is this ecumenically disastrous, it presents an awful witness to the wider academic world.

There are other incidents which I shouldn't report publicly that need to be said as well. In any case, I think the school will be much better off without him.
Evan said…
For what it's worth, I do think the Hochschild firing was wrong; I said so in one of the public forums about the issue, and wrote a piece for The Record about it.

Just wanted to clarify so that my speaking up about Litfin here isn't construed as me agreeing with him about anything in particular.
Anonymous said…
How come Liftin allows other profs who teach evolution to stay?
JET said…
in terms of theology... wheaton just signed kevin vanhoozer for next year.

Are you serious? Can you confirm this from an external source? If that's true, wow -- great news for Wheaton!
Anonymous said…
Vanhoozer has NOT signed a contract with Wheaton. The interview process with Wheaton begins next week and will take a couple of weeks.
What would be truly amazing (besides the coup of getting Vanhoozer) would be for the spirit of the early Wheaton to reemerge. Wheaton began as a school founded by radical abolitionists, first-wave Christian feminists/suffragists, pacifists, and defenders of the poor.

(This is not the only way a school can lose its way. Oberlin College grew out of that same evangelical radicalism. It has retained its progressive politics, but has lost its Christian identity altogether.)

By the time it was graduating the likes of Carl Henry and Billy Graham, that Wheaton was not even remembered by most.

I pray that it can be rediscovered.
Anonymous said…
Kevin Vanhoozer has signed a contract with Wheaton.
Anonymous said…
More changes at Wheaton.

Greg Beale is taking a position at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia. He will teach at Wheaton for one more year - and Fall 2010 he will begin at Westminster.
Wow. Now all the people are really rejoicing.

Seriously, though, what a bizarre career change for Beale. WTS is a dying school; it doesn't have a future. At least he's putting his money where his mouth is: if you're going to publicly denounce Peter Enns, there's no better way to follow that up than by taking his job (though in NT, rather than OT).