Julie Rodgers, Phil Ryken, Confusion

From Time:

Wheaton College in Illinois hired me [Julie Rodgers] to help with LGBT student outreach. Then, the school had a change of heart

I had been a gay Christian blogger for several years when Wheaton College reached out to me in June of 2014. A ministry associate in the Chaplain’s office said they hoped to hire someone to support sexual minorities on campus. They wanted to hire someone who was gay, but they needed the kind of gay who could sign Wheaton’s Community Covenant—a code of conduct that says marriage is between a man and a woman and sexual expression is reserved for that relationship alone….

Anxious but earnest, I agreed to sign it after a transparent round of interviews where I highlighted all the reasons that I, an openly gay blogger, might not be the best fit for Wheaton. The director of human resources said they knew what they were getting into and I was the ideal candidate for a rigorous liberal arts college with a diverse student body expressing a range of needs. At the time, I was still kind of conservative on sexual ethics: I longed to be a part of communities like Wheaton and I thought a commitment to celibacy was worth it if it meant I could be involved….

Private meetings with the president and provost were routine for me within weeks of my appointment in September 2014. During my first week at Wheaton, President Philip Ryken approached me with concerns about ablog post I had retweeted, and he encouraged me to lay low on social media….

The second week I found myself at lunch with President Ryken, where he cautioned me about proceeding with any public speaking or writing. If I was faithful in quiet ways, I remember him saying, then God might give me a more public platform down the road….

Wheaton felt the weight of that risk. I exchanged countless emails with President Ryken and Provost Stan Jones during my first semester on the job. Even though they had known I referred to myself as “gay” prior to hiring me, they encouraged me not to refer to myself as gay any longer. They asked me to say I was simply a Christian who experienced same-sex attraction, one who was open to the Lord healing me in ways that could lead to a holy marriage with a man….

Despite my exhaustive attempts to be a submissive staff member, I found myself in the President’s office after I returned from Christmas break, the first week of January 2015.

He said he could see a situation in which I would choose to resign. I recall him saying that, because of the fire Wheaton had come under by conservative constituents—particularly in the offices of admissions and advancement­­—it would be wise for us consider our options moving forward….

If the college had been aware of my public personae prior to hiring me, I remember him saying, then we wouldn’t be in this unfortunate position.

I asked him what the resignation process would look like and said I would never initiate such a thing….

He said it would be the kind of situation where the resignation would be my own choice, and he would commend me for ministry opportunities elsewhere. He said that if for some reason his presence at Wheaton began to have a negative impact on the college, then he would remove himself because ultimately he wants what’s best for the institution. He said he knew I wanted the best for Wheaton….

I resigned from Wheaton during the summer of 2015 and began publicly advocating for same-sex marriage in the church. I went to Wheaton to support vulnerable students, but the negotiations I made to stay there made me feel like a mouthpiece for a movement I couldn’t support.

After my time there came to an end, a Vice President urged me not to go public with my experience at Wheaton; he said he hoped I would consider “keeping it in the family.”…

Editor’s note:…[From Wheaton] Ms. Rodgers’ resignation came as a surprise to President Ryken and to the College community generally. She was not asked, encouraged, or pressured to resign. Her communication of her resignation followed the publication of a blog post that announced a significant change in her views on integrating Christian beliefs and same-sex issues.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.


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