Wheaton College Removes Chaplain for “Inappropriate Comments and Actions of a Racial and Sexual Nature”

By Julie Roys

Wheaton College has removed its chaplain, Tim Blackmon, for “inappropriate comments and actions of a racial and sexual nature towards specific staff members.” 

In an email today from Wheaton President Philip Ryken to the campus community, Ryken wrote that the college had hired outside professionals to investigate issues with Blackmon. And though the investigation found that Blackmon “did not engage in sexually immoral relationships or physical sexual misconduct,” it “revealed conduct inconsistent with Wheaton’s policies and commitments.” 

“It grieves us when any community member falls short of the College’s standards, and our prayers and sympathies are with those who experienced these policy violations,” Ryken wrote. Ryken added that he would soon announce the appointment of an interim chaplain to serve during the 2020-2021 school year.

Blackmon came to Wheaton in 2015. Before that, he served as senior pastor and head of staff at American Protestant Church of The Hague in the Netherlands, where he was raised. Prior to that, Blackmon served as pastor at River Rock Church in Folsom, California. 

Blackmon was ordained in the Christian Reformed Church in North America in 1995.

I reached out to Blackmon for comment, but he did not respond.

UPDATE: Dr. Greg Waybright will be serving as interim chaplain at Wheaton, according to a subsequent email sent by President Ryken. Waybright recently retired as the teaching pastor of Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, California. Before that, he was president of Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois. Since 2010, Waybright has served on the Wheaton College Board of Trustees but is taking a leave of absence effective immediately. 

President Ryken’s Letter to the Wheaton community:

Dear Campus Community,

I write to share difficult news.

The College received allegations that Chaplain Tim Blackmon engaged in inappropriate comments and actions of a racial and sexual nature towards specific staff members in violation of our policies. The College retained external professionals to carefully investigate and adjudicate these concerns. While Reverend Blackmon did not engage in sexually immoral relationships or physical sexual misconduct, the investigation revealed conduct inconsistent with Wheaton’s policies and commitments. Following this investigation and adjudication, as well as a Trustee review process, Tim Blackmon is no longer employed at Wheaton College.

Because of the unique role of the Chaplain as one of Wheaton’s primary spiritual leaders, we believe it is important to share this information with the campus community. In deference to the confidentiality of multiple parties in a personnel process, though, we do not plan to provide additional information beyond this message and encourage our community to respect the privacy of the individuals involved.

It grieves us when any community member falls short of the College’s standards, and our prayers and sympathies are with those who experienced these policy violations. The Senior Administrative Cabinet remains committed to a campus community that is free from harassment and discrimination, understands our policies, and knows that any concerns brought forward will be heard and addressed.

Soon I will announce the appointment of an Interim Chaplain to serve during the 2020-2021 school year. Until then, and throughout the summer, the Chaplain’s Office remains available to all students, staff, and faculty for spiritual encouragement and prayer support. Please send a message to [email protected], and someone will respond within 24 hours to connect you with the Chaplain’s Office staff or to let you know that your prayer request has been received and will be lifted up to God.

We recognize that this is painful news. As our community experiences brokenness, we also recognize our ongoing need of restoration and reconciliation. We lament this situation and pray for all who have been affected by these events, as well as for Reverend Blackmon and his family.

Philip Ryken

President

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11 thoughts on “Wheaton College Removes Chaplain for “Inappropriate Comments and Actions of a Racial and Sexual Nature””

  1. If only Cedarville’s board of trustees were grieved “ when any community member falls short of the College’s standards.”

  2. Dunkin T. Dudley

    He engagedv in no sexual misconduct or inappropriate sexual relationships but, they remove him for Sexual misconduct and will not say what that misconduct involves. Is it just me but, does it not just sound like of we just do not like guy?

    1. Please re read this paragraph:
      “Because of the unique role of the Chaplain as one of Wheaton’s primary spiritual leaders, we believe it is important to share this information with the campus community. In deference to the confidentiality of multiple parties in a personnel process, though, we do not plan to provide additional information beyond this message and encourage our community to respect the privacy of the individuals involved.”
      When someone is in spiritual leadership, even if He or She has been a mentor to many, there are boundaries that must be up held. There is a very fine line between Reporting Truth and Gossip. A public forum doesn’t help restore the church and this public forum may bring out vipers against administration and a painful situation. President Ryken has served alongside Chaplain Blackmon, prayed with this man, entrusted students and staff with him. He is loved. Now is not the time to tear down either man. But pray for both and for all hurt by a situation that is private and confidential yet painful with consequences. I believe in a God who restores relationships and heals brokeness.

      1. Lisa, although I agree that there will always be detractors of any institution and none of us like bad press for places we love, I think Julie is doing the work our churches and Christian organizations really need because so few take misconduct as seriously as it deserves. It actually increases my confidence in Wheaton College to hear about this firing as it shows leaders need to be accountable to uphold Christian values they espouse and there are standards at Wheaton they expect to be met. Our family friend who received financial support for decades for ministry was recently exposed for lies and abusive misconduct. It doesn’t feel good to be duped into sacrificial giving and enthusiasm for their “serving”. Like Julie says in her recent Cedarville Chernobyl article, many leaders, elder boards, etc. are not holding those in Christian service to the most basic standards of integrity. So many errant “Christian servants” are aggrandizing themselves for personal gain of fame/attention, power, and money at the expense of their colleagues, parishioners, and Christian witness. It’s human nature not to want to believe that those we know and like might be wolves in sheep’s clothing but if those errant “Christians” don’t fear God enough to keep from harassing, abusing women and children, covering up abuse, hiring or keeping known abusers in place, pressuring those under their care sexually, fleecing their constituents for lavish spending on themselves, bullying their staff, repeatedly lying or hiding important truth, trying to intimidate and ruin reputations of those who try to hold them accountable for sin, etc, at least they might fear their deeds will be exposed online. Even though it is painful, I hope the Christian community can learn that those with charisma are not necessarily called to ministry. I hope we will no longer accept the tacit approval of enablers who choose to side with their errant “buddies” in ministry by staying on each other’s boards to rubber stamp them staying in power after violating trust, supporting each other’s books, inviting each other to speaking engagements. Many of these pastors and pastoral types who enable are quick to start church discipline and publicly criticize those who are not their friends but defend their friends instead of victims. Although we see the outer appearance (seems so spiritual, nice, and inspiring), God looks at the heart. Not all leaders are who they seem to be in public.

  3. Wheaton champions ‘racial diversity’ over the health and safety of its staff/students. The fact that there were MULTIPLE victims is appalling. And now, Wheaton is trying to sweep it under the rug by “not commenting further on the matter”. A scandal this significant and fracturing for the community needs to be dealt with in the correct manner. There needs to be TOTAL TRANSPARENCY. Wheaton College’s administration is such a joke.

    1. No, this is being handled completely appropriately. They were quite clear about what happened , or at least as clear as they need to be. He did not commit aduktery and yet was sexually and racially inappropriate. They have swept nothing under the rug. Sweeping under the rug would be saying nothing and letting him stay. We do not have the right to know the victim’s private details. We do not need to know. They have a right to a certain level of privacy that I am guessing each of us, including you, would want if you were the victim.

      1. I agree that Wheaton is doing what they are supposed to. It looks like he got fired for sexual harassment. Colleges are liable under Title IX if they do not respond to sexual harassment complaints with a timely investigation. There was an independent investigation that lasted several months, and the chaplain was found in violation of employment policies, which are available online: https://www.wheaton.edu/media/student-care/title-IX-equity-policy-august-2019.pdf It’s not like the general public has a right to re-conduct the investigation into confidential HR matters and come to their own decisions. The College has a responsibility to protect the identity of the women making the complaints as well as the confidentiality of Rev. Blackmon. There are HR laws that the college has to follow to protect employee confidentiality in these situations. “Total transparency” is contracting independent investigators and letting people know the reason his employment was terminated. I know that after the whole Larycia Hawkins debacle the administration has lost a lot of trust for handling racially sensitive issues, but to me this does not look like a case of the college failing diverse staff, it looks like they are protecting female staff. It’s a PR nightmare for them either way, but what are they supposed to do? It shouldn’t be all that shocking that a Christian man was found to have behaved badly. His own protected status as a minority doesn’t make him immune to sexism.

    2. Emily S: how is firing the guy, publicly exposing his sin “sweeping it under the rug”? It’s none of your business exactly what was said or done. All that you need to know has been covered in the email from Pres. Ryken. How would the exact words the Chaplain spoke to someone help you in any way? Why do you need to know? Beyond what was described in the email would simply fall into the gossip category-which is a sin.

  4. The vague wording of the reports made me wonder, “What did he do? Flirt with a white woman and then accuse her of being racist after she turned him down?”

    Reading the comments lead me to believe that I wasn’t far off track.

  5. Stephen Erickson

    Sadly, Rev. Blackmon got caught and others have not. Old white men dominate Wheaton College’s leadership. Yes … he is black. That said, the Wheaton College “police” should look in on it’s leaders’ past and present … start with 2015, board members and faculty. Watch their behavior … their non-verbal cues will start you on the parh of discovery.

    “He or she who is without sin, cast the first stone”

  6. Almost get the impression that President Ryken wants to keep ‘control’ over everything at Wheaton! Each time Blackmon was preaching, Ryken was there. No trust! From now, on Ryken can do all the preaching himself !

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