The Rev. Tim Blackmon speaks at Wheaton College on Nov. 18, 2019. Video screengrab via Wheaton College

Fired Wheaton Chaplain Rebuts Allegations; Calls Termination “Grossly Disproportionate”

By Julie Roys

Recently fired Wheaton College Chaplain, Timothy Blackmon, says allegations he sexually harassed Wheaton staff and made inappropriate racial comments are false and taken out of context. He adds that he believes his case has not been “fairly adjudicated” and that his termination was “grossly disproportionate” to the nature of his alleged offenses.

In a statement Blackmon sent to me today, Blackmon specifically responded to the allegations detailed yesterday in an email from Wheaton College President Philip Ryken to faculty and staff.

In response to the allegation that Blackmon “suggested in a staff meeting that a female employee sit on his lap and complete a sexual harassment online training for him as a way of mocking the training,” Blackmon wrote:

In September of 2015, I watched the mandatory (but rather patronizing) sexual harassment training video at Wheaton. I said to the complainant and my secretary “Come on, it’s not like I don’t know what sexual harassment is. It’s not like I’m asking my secretary to sit on my lap and take the training for me.” 

Blackmon also responded to the allegation that he “made comments to a recently married female employee about her sex life,” writing:

In 2015 . . . the complainant . . . whose brand-new husband had been pulling all-nighters for grad-school. As a way of celebrating their newly wedded bliss I said, “Maybe you should surprise him and pay him a conjugal visit.” As to the conjugal-visit comment, I was genuinely trying to commiserate with her about the challenges of graduate school and newlyweds.

Another allegation was that Blackmon “arranged to have a graphically illustrated manual of sexual positions called The Idiot’s Guide to Kama Sutra placed on a female staff member’s desk. Blackmon responded:

As I was leaving the Netherlands, I received a farewell gift from the wife of one of my very best friends. She had purchased the “Idiot’s guide to the Kama Sutra” for me, at our church bazaar for 1 euro. It was a joke, of course, and she made sure the wrapped gift found its way from the cargo shipment into my new office at Wheaton. When I found the hilarious gift, I told the complainant the story (as I have done to others) and gave her the book, thinking she would find it funny. Of course when asked about the incident, I have admitted it was foolish and unthinking, because when taken out of its contexts without the prank, it sounds like I just put a book of sex positions on her desk.

Lastly, Blackmon responded to the allegation that he “repeatedly used an ethnic slur in reference to a person of color”:

When I started at Wheaton, one of my Asian American colleagues was mistaken for (an) . . . Asian American professor. We commiserated about the realities of beginning to work at Wheaton and laughed (and texted) about Whiz Kalifa’s song “Black and Yellow”—a black pastor from Holland and a Korean ministry associate. I said, “Maybe we should call you the China-man because people can’t even tell one Asian from another, one Chinese from a Korean.” More laughter ensued and for the next couple of weeks we commiserated about the ironies of working in a predominantly white institution, and we soon moved on from our inside joke and got to work. This is what they are considering the racial/ethnic slur.

Blackmon also asserts that the Title IX complaint that led to his termination is the second complaint against him filed by an employee “whom I hold in the highest regard and with whom I believed I had a positive and professional working relationship.”

Blackmon said the employee filed the first complaint was in 2017, after Blackmon had shared five theological articles that were deemed “ideologically problematic.” Blackmon said Wheaton’s Title IX office refused to pursue the matter “as it was a clear misuse of the Title IX investigative process.”

The more recent Title IX investigation “still focused on the declined material from the 2017 complaint,” Blackmon said, and was “set in motion before I was afforded the customary conflict resolution process for employees at Wheaton College.” 

Ryken maintains that the investigation into Blackmon’s behavior “had nothing to do with the theological content of any articles (Blackmon) shared with his staff.” Ryken added that he had hoped not to share the details of the allegations against Blackmon, but felt “compelled to correct erroneous information that was provided to the media.”

*UPDATE: Some of Blackmon’s statements have been edited slightly to better obscure the identities of the alleged victims.

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39 thoughts on “Fired Wheaton Chaplain Rebuts Allegations; Calls Termination “Grossly Disproportionate””

  1. Blackmon has a respond for all the allegations except for the “email to employees with a meme about masturbation.” What is his rational on this?

    Once Blackmon was dismissed, his reaction was a threat of legal action against Wheaton College. Does God’s Word not have precedent in all matters? (1 Corinthians 6:1-7) Would contacting the Institute for Christian Conciliation (ICC) be a better option to take?

    Overall, how can Blackmon condone his behavior and believe that it is acceptable as a Christian, Chaplain and role model for the Wheaton student body? He is trying to both justify his behavior and spin the truth by stating his dismissal were theological differences.

    Yet, I must give him credit that he did contact Julie for a fair and honest report of his carnal actions.

    1. Matthew Anthony

      If his explanations are true, they don’t sound worthy of being fired. They sound to me like he felt he had a relationship with co-workers that would allow such comments. I would much rather work in that kind of environment than one where I had to watch every word I said.

      1. Robert deJesus

        I agree. Does not rise to incriminating offenses. Wouldn’t work there either. Cancel culture going to far, as is the case most of the time. Today, deliberations are viewed as unnecessary. Marxism in Christian circles. Who would’ve believed that?

        1. This man is the pastor of our students. I would find this untoward if my pastor said or did these things. I think being above reproach is a good position to take for men and women in leadership. I do not believe it is fascist or Marxist to expect leaders to uphold a standard of holiness in ministry and then to exemplify it.

  2. i work for a non-Christian institution that takes things such as those mentioned above very seriously. However, unless there is direct physical sexual abuse or something that can lead to arrest that occurs (forced touching, for example, or child porn), there is usually some kind of counseling, education, and warning involved for the first offense. However a second offense usually leads to direct termination. Did Blackmon get counseling, or he is that obtuse that he didn’t get that his actions weren’t welcome in the workplace?

    1. I guess my reply there is that your non-Christian workplaces are chaplaincy positions. That a spiritual leader thinks those actions are appropriate is problematic enough for termination, in my opinion. One incident can probably be excused with his dubious explanation. But there is a troubling and inexcusable pattern there. He responds as if all the people he offended were somehow in on the joke. But these obviously didn’t find it funny. He sounds like the 7th grade boy who excuses his bullying with, “I was just joking!”

      1. Matthew Anthony

        Times have changed. I went to Wheaton, class of ‘80. The atmosphere was much looser then. O course, I don’t know how it was among the staff, but I heard things from the staff that made them sound like normal human beings.
        This is true. I had a math professor who told us how important it was to know percentages and discounts, lest someone try to “jew you down.” My friend in the class, who happened to be half Jewish, and I could hardly keep from busting out laughing. We and Wheaton College survived.

      2. I think your problem in this is that you don’t know Mr Blackmon. I do. And yes , jokes aren’t always clear, but in this case it’s ridiculous to start complaining about our so long after it happened.
        Ryken isn’t very smart here unfortunately. Too much negative publicity for Wheaton, on Rykens account….

  3. From other article sounds like he admitted his comments were foolish and beneath his office. So why does he have a problem that he was fired? If he really owned up he should have resigned. Even in the best light he seems to transparently place himself in, he is unfit for ministry. Passing on a sex book is not an appropriate prank in any setting, much less a Christian ministry. What a strange friendship that the wife of his friend would send him that book in the first place. Red flags all around.

    1. Matthew Anthony

      Yes, he should have disowned the friend and his wife on the spot. They weren’t worthy of friends.

    2. Sounds like you don’t understand that there’s life outside the US of A and that context, humor and friendships aren’t the same in other countries around the world.

      Not all Christians around the world are puritans and not each joke (which is what it was in this case!) are worthy to be fitted over. Too easy for you to judge from behind your screen.

  4. He admitted to two grossly inappropriate things (The “conjugal visit” comment and the Kama Sutra book). He denies two more accusations by telling the story his way, but Wheaton might have witnesses who contradict him. I’m not saying they do, but they might. Neither party discusses a period of counselling with an expectation of improved behavior, but sometimes you learn so much all at once that firing is necessary.

  5. Always said the accusations by Wheaton a Biblically Drifted School were unfounded and based on Trumped up accusations. So sad to see so called “Christian” Schools taking and applying a Wordly system. But, then again look who works at Wheaton

  6. Here’s what I saw:

    “The wife of one of my very best friends”

    Has anyone contacted American Protestant Church of the Hague, to ensure they know about these allegations and have the opportunity to provide support for any victims there?

    1. I left the book on Tim’s desk. During our annual Church bazar I found the book in the donated items as we set up. I thought it was ironic to put the book on Tim’s desk. After we laughed about it, my husband snuck into Tim’s office and hid it in his library where it sat for years. I guess it made its way to Chicago. I thought it was funny to put a book that silly in Tim’s office. And the idea I was a victim is stupid.

      1. many churches are now big business – I can’t possibly know all the relevant details from this article , but in general what I see in black church culture is a broader comfort with sexuality, expressions of sexuality and humor about sexuality between males and females. Compare dance that comes from England to that of Africa.

        When I went to our church picnic ( I am Caucasian and no longer worship at PWC’s predominantly white churches, my home church is an historically black Baptist church ) and they were playing music ….it was what I call “ hippie music” because I started moving my hips right away. I love to dance, and have for decades.

        My dancing classes had Marvin Gaye singing “ I heard it through the grape vine” those dance classes helped ruined me for the white church ….music just too boring , chosen frozen is what I felt when I visited this Wheaton Church many years back. Lots of $$$$$$ though.

        Sometime churches/businesses act on this premise “ Love of money is the root of many forms of evil” and they do what is expedient not right.

        We know Jesus Wept.

      2. The fact that someone thought it was a good idea to donate a book like that to a church bazaar makes it doubly funny, to me. People do the strangest things!

  7. If Blackmon isnt lying, Wheaton is slandering him. Both should say more. What is most troubling is the plausible allegation that Wheaton is really out to get him for his theological views. It is fine for Wheaton to fire him for theological views if they admit that he holds views contrary to the school’s, outrageous if they fire him for theology but use jokes he made as an excuse.

  8. wheaton parent

    As the parent of 3 Wheaton grads within the past few years who sat under Tim’s teaching to great benefit, I am alarmed at the nature of the public discourse around this event. So many Christians are willing to jump to a snap judgement about Tim. What Tim brought to Wheaton college is rare and irreplaceable. Wheaton is no longer the Wheaton of the 1950’s that we remember fondly. Our children who have been deeply embedded in campus life and leadership were overwhelmed with concern about the struggles within the student body. The majority of male students in their experience struggle with porn addiction and masturbation. As a European, Tim offered to many students the ability to be comfortable talking about these things in a way that made it possible to both face the sobering reality of sexually broken culture, while seeking the Lord and his restoration. As a family we have lived all over the world, and we have seen devout Christian people in different cultural contexts have very different comfort levels about what is considered normative in terms of joking and banter. Cultural differences are real, and Tim brought a refreshing frankness to his job. Most students, including my own, would have never felt comfortable speaking to this level of reality and vulnerability with someone who was more Midwestern in their sensibilities. Tim has made it clear that the complainant first made a complaint based on theological articles, and that these same articles took up a great deal of the second investigation. There is clearly an ideological component to this that is not being honestly handled.
    This is a GREAT loss to the campus, and will bring grief to many students.

  9. I’m disturbed that Julie allowed Blackmon to essentially publicly identify the victims in this blog post. That is inappropriate, because it victimizes them again. This is why victims often are afraid to come forward.

    1. I share your concern and have edited Blackmon’s statements to better obscure the identities of the alleged victims. The remaining information regarding the victims was already published in the Chicago Tribune prior to my article coming out. I believe the descriptions could apply to quite a number of people and do not identify anyone in particular.

  10. It is challenging as an outsider to bear judgement as we are hearing 2 conflicting stories. I have a christian counselor friend who has a sense of humor that most of us find a bit odd. We kind of roll our eyes or say, “that isn’t funny.” We know his heart though. I can see a close friend finding a cheap copy somewhere and giving it as a joke or just saying, “Hey, look what I found.” I realize he is at a conservative mid western college and he holds a particular position. I wonder if anyone said to him that he should be careful with his European sensibilities? Let us be aware that people are very sensitive nowadays, and obviously are afraid or do not know how to say, “Just knock it off buddy.” On the other hand, he may be downplaying or withholding information. We just do not know enough. Mr. Rykin took an unusual step in this situation. There is usually more going on behind the scenes that outsiders will ever know. Hopefully, they will find a way forward as this has brought a lot of negative publicity. I guess you can say Mr. Blackmon was not “discerning the times” in this situation.

  11. Zeke Overstuur

    While Dr. Blackmon offers some helpful context, I still don’t find this particularly funny. I tend to believe the accuser in these situations. But a few things just don’t add up for me. Do these accusations rise to the level of trauma that would explain a 3-4 year delay in reporting? Why now? Why did Wheaton’s spokesperson share the allegations in such a way it leaves people imagining the worst? Dr. Blackmon does not seem to deny these events took place and his explanations seem plausible. And why would Dr. Blackmon, with a fair amount of detail, insist the problematic articles were part of the case while the school says they were not. Do we know if there are multiple accusers? Or can you file a Title IX on behalf of someone else?

    Seems like an ugly situation for all involved. Praying they sort it out.

  12. We have known Tim for many years. Tim is honest, direct, funny, and smart. He cares for the students at Wheaton deeply. There likely is more to the story than Wheaton is willing to admit at this point. Wheaton may have been trying more to satisfy demands from a faction at Wheaton with the aggressive way they handled this as opposed to looking at whether Tim really did something wrong/worth getting fired for. Might be interesting to look to see if any Wheaton staff wanted Tim out and why.

  13. Imagine being his victim and reading the comments here exonerating him because he is such a “great guy.” Pastors are held to a higher standard. The behavior here would not fly in any secular business I know. He was given training based on Federal law for title IX and still made these kinds of inappropriate comments and jokes. There is zero excuse for this. Imagine if Wheaton had swept things under the rug like Cedarville or Willow. You would all be crying foul. All of you. Wheaton did the right thing. Wheaton cares about minorities feeling welcome and Wheaton cares about women having a work environment free of sexual harassment. I wish the rest of the church cared about these things.

    1. That’s the bottomline, isn’t it? Cedarville and Willow. In a rush to not-be-like-those-two, the board threw its chaplain under the bus–or should we say sacrificed him on the altar of our cancel culture? Never mind that this is nothing like Cedarville or Willow. This one will go down as a cautionary tale of Title IX run amock.

  14. As a mother of teen and 20’s aged children, which puts me well into middle age myself, as American culture has fallen away further and further from its Christian roots, and as my faith has grown and my brightened, I can attest that my sense of humor has, well, darkened. I would have found all of Mr. Blackmon’s jokes funny.

    His explanations all sound plausible, and they also sound like the sort of thing over which a type of midwestern white suburban evangelicalism would get its knickers in a twist, subtly overconcerned as it is with appearances rather than seeing past the surface to the heart. I thought that generation had passed on, or the (relatively) younger leaders of this subculture had gotten wiser. Too bad that’s not the case.

    1. Noted. White evangelicals think sexually charged jokes are acceptable despite that whole verse about not making your brother stumble. Got it. Also message received that the older generation has less concern for women and minorities than the younger generation. Super. Thanks for clarifying.

      1. I can’t speak for all “white evangelicals,” and perhaps I didn’t make clear that I was only speaking for myself. My point was that each interaction which is at issue in these allegations had an entire context surrounding it, which none of us share, and which changes the meaning of each charge. Christian leaders should have the wisdom to discern how context changes meaning. Is that too much to expect? Making snap judgments about a complex situation and jumping to conclusions is something I saw a lot of from the generation that preached against the Jesus people movement. Far from dismissing the concerns of “women and minorities,” we should give them that same careful thought we give to the statements of a white male, and if the assertions don’t withstand scrutiny, then we should draw that out into the open.

  15. It would not surprise me if the case with Emeritus Professor Gilbert Bilezikian, who was taken away his emeritus professor title in February 2020 because of sexual harassment matters back in the eighties and nineties (!!), which cases were not dealt with by Wheaton College (!!),, also played a role in the case of Blackmon. Wheaton’s board of trustees thinking was: ‘we cannot have another person ‘crossing’ the line as it will damage our reputation’ and ‘these allegations go back only 4 years ago or so (instead of 20 or 30 years). Therefore, no counseling and no second chance for Blackmon.

  16. Furthermore, if you visit YouTube and you search for Wheaton College Chapel Messages 2019-2020 (and also previous years), most to all Blackmon’s messages to his students have been deleted and or erased, as if he did not exist over the last 5 years at the School. This is how Wheaton College deals with Blackmon case! Absurd! Not Christlike at all.

  17. I agree with Churchtoo’s comments. This man was a CHAPLAIN!! His comments, no matter the audience, were far from Christ-like. If most of us said any of those things, we would be fired, or at least removed from positions of leadership.

    I am not saying this from a “midwestern, prudish, etc.” viewpoint, I served 21 years in the Army, in many overseas assignments, therefore I am pretty rough around the edges, and have heard it all. But, his actions were NOT those of a Chaplain.

    In every article but this one, all seem to agree that the church leaders aren’t doing enough to quell harassment issues, but, now that a Christian institution is seemingly taking decisive action, ya’ll cry fowl. Hmmm…

    1. Greg,

      Thank you for your service! You are appreciated more than you know.

      I think the reason for people responding a bit more cautiously in this case is because of some implicit contradictions. If Rev. Blackmon’s behavior in 2015 was indeed so far from Christ-like, why was nothing made it of then? Why allow him to lead chapels, preach, and pray for another 4 years with, as far as we know, no other complaints or reports against him?

      Also, as you can see from the comments here and elsewhere, the level of offensiveness in these accusations is highly subjective. Some find it funny, some find it unbecoming. But why now and not then? I really struggle to believe these accusations could have caused such emotional injury that it would take 4 years to find the courage to come forward.

    1. Sandor, I read the article that you provided. In the article, Tim Blackmon’s attorney stated: “we believe that Wheaton was looking for an excuse to sever its relationship with its first African American Chaplain” and return to being a predominantly white educational institution. To be honest, I find that hard to believe, and this attorney lost credibility by making that statement. I personally have no dog in this fight, and I don’t know for certain how appropriate or inappropriate Blackmon’s various alleged statements were. However, I seriously doubt the primary motive for firing Tim Blackmon was due to him being Black, and seeking to return Wheaton to a predominantly white institution. That particular argument doesn’t cut it in my opinion.

  18. “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place…” (Eph 5:4)

    People did not appreciate Blackmon’s sexual innuendo in the work place, and he was rightly fired before this turned into an even bigger mess. If Wheaton hadn’t fired him, there would be an outcry and blame that it hadn’t done enough to protect Blackmon’s victims. His words and actions, taken together, would be reprehensible even from a junior high student, and are incomprehensible from a chaplain. The types of comments and visual images he put forth can be a type of grooming behavior; no one should be subjected to such unprofessional, sexually suggestive speech. Perhaps he should have taken the sexual harassment training more seriously. His nephew, in a social media post, also said Blackmon’s comment about someone’s red pants as “holy hot pants” contributed to his firing. Distributing crude memes about the pervasive sexual addiction of masturbation is completely unbecoming to his former position as chaplain, and I haven’t seen Blackmon try to explain that one away. If the victims of these so-called “jokes,” in Blackmon’s telling, would give their perspective first-hand, the evidence would be even more compelling to refute his pathetic justifications. He is now free to pursue a job anywhere else in the world where his lewd manner is better appreciated. He and his lawyer’s playing of the race card and their racist accusations in this are appalling and not supported by a color-blind evaluation of his unbecoming, ungodly behavior, nor are they supported by the evidence of all the ways Wheaton is speaking out about racial injustice and trying to attract students and staff of color, including his own hiring, which sadly did not work out as hoped.

    “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Mt 12:34)

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