A Wheaton College alumna is questioning the college’s account of why it fired its former chaplain after receiving a text saying a professor is encouraging people to report stories about the chaplain to trustees and the media.
Within an hour of receiving an email announcing that Wheaton had fired Chaplain Tim Blackmon, for “inappropriate comments and actions of a racial and sexual nature,” Wheaton alumna, Emma Schuchardt, said she received a surprising text from a fellow graduate.
The text said that Dr. Beth Felker Jones, a Wheaton professor of theology, is encouraging people to report first-hand experiences about Blackmon because the situation is (and Schuchardt said this part was bold-faced and in quotes) “part of a bigger cultural problem at the college which needs to be addressed.”
Schuchardt, who was president of Wheaton’s Black Student Union before graduating in 2017, said the text specifically urged people to contact trustees and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, a Washington Post reporter, whom the text said could provide anonymity.
Schuchardt said the text urged recipients to forward the text to others, adding that the text she received had been forwarded at least twice.
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Prior to receiving the text, Schuchardt said she was confused about Blackmon’s dismissal because Wheaton’s initial email to alumni was “incredibly vague.” However, after receiving the text, Schuchardt said she became suspicious.
“I was confused that the college sent out an email, and then within an hour I am receiving information about a specific reporter that a faculty member at the college is giving out,” Schuchardt said. “That seemed a little too political.”
Dr. Beth Felker Jones also posted a message on a private Wheaton College faculty Facebook page soon after the college announced Blackmon’s dismissal. In it, Jones said that she had been “walking with victims on this for some time” and asserted:
Tim (Blackmon) is working to mobilize a story which would paint him as the victim of overzealous complainants. If you hear that story, I’d encourage you to hear the other side. . . . I am praying that we will stand up for victims and work for an investigation into how (Blackmon) was protected and culture change that will help Wheaton become a place where women and all people are treasured as image-bearers.
Dr. Brian Howell, professor of sociology and anthropology at Wheaton, urged Jones in the Facebook comment thread to post her message to another private Wheaton Facebook page, which has a larger audience. Jones responded that she would do so once Blackmon was removed from the page.
Howell responded, “Done.”
Jones then posted her message on the Wheaton academic affairs Facebook page, as well. (Howell told me that he did not remove Blackmon from the academic affairs page at Jones’ request, but simply because Blackmon was no longer employed by Wheaton.)
Jones has since removed both of her Facebook posts about Blackmon. She told me she did so because some of her colleagues felt she was “trying to stifle conversation.”
Jones said she also was concerned that her message implied that she believed there was “some kind of conspiracy to protect (Blackmon).” Jones said she does not think there is a conspiracy but was speaking more generally about how it’s “difficult to report when powerful men harass the person.”
When I asked Jones about the text Schuchardt received, she said, “I don’t know where that’s from.” I also asked Jones if she had talked to reporter Sarah Pulliam Bailey about writing a story and Jones said no comment.
Bailey did not comment on the record about the issue and has not published anything about Blackmon.
According to Blackmon, the first Title IX complaint against him concerned five theological articles that Blackmon gave an employee in 2017, which the employee “deemed ideologically problematic.” Blackmon said the second Title IX complaint, which resulted in his dismissal, also focused on the articles from the 2017 complaint.
According to Wheaton College, the “outcome of the investigation” into Blackmon’s behavior “had nothing to do with the theological content of any articles (Blackmon) shared with his staff.”
However, Schuchardt said she suspects the ideological differences between Blackmon and Jones may have played a role—not just based on the text, but also on conversations she’s had with other alumni and staff.
She said from her perspective—as both a student of Jones’ and as a leader who interacted with Blackmon—Blackmon and Jones are on different ends of the spectrum when it comes to gender. Schuchardt described Blackmon’s view as conservative and Jones’ view as “much more progressive.”
Schuchardt added that it’s well-known on campus that Jones and Church of the Resurrection*, the church in Wheaton that Blackmon attends, have “major disagreements about gender.”
I asked Jones if she knew anything about the content of the articles Blackmon gave the Title IX complainant. Specifically, I asked if any of the articles expressed a view on gender similar to that of Stewart Ruch, senior pastor of Church of the Resurrection, and Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the Upper Midwest.
Jones said she believed they did, adding that one of the articles may have been written by Bishop Ruch. I also asked Jones if these articles were included in the Title IX complaint and she responded, “I believe they were. It has been a long time.” She added, “(The articles) did not form in any way a basis for a decision.”
Jones said she does not agree with Bishop Ruch’s “theology of gender,” but did not comment on the record about how their theology of gender differs.
However, Ruch is a well-known proponent of Theology of the Body (TOB), which teaches that the body is a symbol revealing truth about God’s design for human sexuality. More specifically, TOB teaches that maleness and femaleness are essential dimensions of a person that cannot be exchanged.
In her 2015 book, “Faithful: A Theology of Sex,” Jones affirms that bodily distinctions are important. Yet she also writes that “many things about the way we go about being male and female are socially constructed. They come not from our bodies, but from ways that we are shaped by the world.”
I contacted Ruch for clarification on his views and input about the alleged disagreement with Jones, but he was not available for comment before publication.
Blackmon did not comment on the record about the matter.
However, Blackmon’s lawyer this week released a statement to The College Fix, asserting that race factored heavily into Wheaton’s decision to dismiss Blackmon.
“From the outset, Chapl(a)in Blackmon’s race was very much at issue,” Attorney Andrew Miltenberg said, adding that Blackmon was treated far worse than his white colleagues. Miltenberg also alleged that pressure to conform to the #MeToo movement and controversies surrounding Title IX investigations caused Wheaton to overreact.
I contacted Wheaton College numerous times to comment on this story, but no one responded.
A GoFundMe account has been created for Blackmon, who reportedly didn’t receive any severance from Wheaton College. The fund seeks to help Blackmon pay off legal bills and launch a “new endeavor called ‘BellHop Media.’”
*Editorial Note: In full disclosure, I am a member of Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton and know Tim Blackmon, but not well. I also know Bishop Ruch.
14 thoughts on “Wheaton Professor’s Actions Prompt Questions About Why Former Chaplain Was Fired”
This reads a lot more like a political hit job.
In 2017, the accuser attempts to weaponize the Title IX process to silence Blackmon with more conservative views, but it doesn’t stick. Then, two years later, calls in backup from faculty activists, digs in the 4 year old archives of Blackmon’s Dutch humor, tries again, and finally makes it stick.
What I find equally troubling is that Wheaton’s statement “the outcome of the investigation had nothing to do with the theological content of any articles”, seems like a very disingenuous PR loophole. Why are they trying to suggest these articles are not clearly at the heart of this case?
This all is quite confusing. Is the article stating that there seems to be evidence that Blackmon was railroaded due to differing views on gender and a casualty of over-reaction to the MeToo situation? Or, is the issue that he may be responsible for inappropriate behavior? I am not judging either way, but I think some clarification may help to better understand what is at stake. To make matters more confusing is that a Professor seems to be saying there is a culture of WHAT? at Wheaton.? It concerns me when people are speaking ambiguously.
I know in the past that my music minister was let go as he did not seem to be a good fit for the organization, Is that part of the equation? Again, no judgments. Thank you.
Julie, I’m very glad to see you’re reporting on this matter and getting the facts out, rather than naive speculation. I’m sick of how people keep jumping to conclusions without any information and eagerly pretend to the knowledge and competence necessary to judge this case. I worked with Tim for a year as his executive assistant from 2019-2020 and saw what happened. As Tim would often point out in other matters, Jeanie Duck was right: “One thing you should count on: [in the absence of information] people will connect the dots in the most pathological way possible.”
I myself am disgusted with how Wheaton has handled Tim’s investigation and termination, and I resigned because of the egregious lack of due process, lack of biblical fidelity, and utter disregard for anything but Wheaton’s reputation. As I informed Phil Ryken in my resignation letter, “Though I doubt this will happen, I wish my departure would, in however small a fashion, serve as a call to Wheaton’s leaders to ask themselves, in all seriousness and sobriety, whether or not their first commitment is really to Christ and His Kingdom rather than to values, agendas, and ideologies which ‘follow the course of this world, the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.’”
I would hope Christians were wiser than to fall in line with the spirit of the age that is eager to serve as judge, jury and executioner with a few quick and easy comments of jubilant denunciation. For those who favor Tim’s termination, including all responsible for that decision, I recommend a prayerful, meditative reading of Matthew 7:1-5. I for one will gladly continue to abstain from social media and maintain sobriety from what Alan Jacobs calls the addiction of “punishing malefactors”:
“When a society rejects the Christian account of who we are, it doesn’t become less moralistic but far more so, because it retains an inchoate sense of justice but has no means of offering and receiving forgiveness. The great moral crisis of our time is not, as many of my fellow Christians believe, sexual licentiousness, but rather vindictiveness. Social media serve as crack for moralists: there’s no high like the high you get from punishing malefactors. But like every addiction, this one suffers from the inexorable law of diminishing returns. The mania for punishment will therefore get worse before it gets better.” (Alan Jacobs)
If I came across as judgmental or jumping to conclusions, that was was not my intention. My point was that the players seem to be obfuscating rather than clarifying. I do take your point to heart though. If this is an unjust situation I hope justice will be served.
I disagree with Aaron and Zeke. Aaron I applaud the words of your resignation but fail to see how it relates to this case. In my view sexual licentiousness is a far greater problem than vindictiveness, which when it is deployed seems to be so against moralists rather than the immoral. If Julie’s history of reporting reveals anything, it’s that for too long there was a general lack of accountability for Christian leadership and more regard given to offenders rather than the offended. Me Too has been good for the church just as it has for the world. The cases in which it has been weaponized pale compared to the cases in which it has finally touched the untouchables and given victims some dignity and upheld the moral dignity of the church. Dutch humor? The things done and said were disgusting. Culture should never be an excuse for perversion. I’ve heard the phrase “If you ain’t Dutch you ain’t much.” Well Dutch or not, you should be held to a moral standard in Christian ministry. Certainly the pedophilia in Afghanistan is not excused because it is cultural, even though Obama was ok with it? There is something wrong when your friend’s wife gives you a book about sex and you give it to another woman you’re not married to! I’m limiting my comments to the facts that have been made clear, though yes I don’t know nearly enough to say more about the man’s character as a whole or the circumstances surrounding the actions against him, especially about whether or not this whole thing has political, racial or theological motivations. An issue that might be at play here is how when conservatives compromise with morality they open the door for liberals to take over. Look at what has happened at Moody Church and elsewhere.
A few quick thoughts.
I think we can agree that the #metoo movement has done much to improve safe work environments for women especially. And I also agree that to think that simply being Dutch somehow excuses someone from moral standards is silly.
You say that for far too long there was a lack of accountability and more regard given to the offender than to the offended. In this story that doesn’t hold up as these interactions didn’t come out until 4 years later. As far as we can tell, nobody knew about it, and so, no “more regard” or special protection could have been given.
You say you are limiting to the facts, but at the same time you fill in the blanks with the least gracious reading of events. You say there is something wrong when a friend gives a book ect. But, after reading the explanation of the lady responsible for the book in question, I struggle to belief this act was of a sexual nature at all. Are motive, intent, friendship, and yes, even culture, not worth considering? Or, are all mentions, jokes, puns, or anything else related to sex or sexuality outside of the bounds of marriage by definition perverse and sexually immoral? Of course not. Context matters.
My big frustration with this all is that the lack of any objective standard in determining what precisely constitutes sexual harassment or not actually inhibits the safe and meaningful relationships we so desire in our churches and Christian institutions. Has the #metoo movement unintentionally ushered in a sexual hypersensitivity and legalism that suffocates the very relationships it is trying to protect? Is there no scenario possible where someone is offended or annoyed, and instead of prosecution and punishment pursues forgiveness and reconciliation?
If I’m overly harsh in my reading I apologize. I have a hard time seeing that the moral repulsion I feel about married people passing on a sex book to people of the opposite sex they are not married to is nothing more than cultural or that it shouldn’t raise a question about whether they are fit for ministry. I think that would be pretty universal in Christendom, as is the inappropriateness of sexual jokes or puns. Emailing a meme about masturbation? How clueless can you be about what is or isn’t appropriate in any work environment, secular or Christian? As to the joke about lap sitting. If his version is true rather than the accusation, it still raises a red flag. He’s not excused from creating the idea of the woman sitting on his lap just because he framed it in the negative rather than directly telling or asking her to. It can still be forcing someone to entertain a disturbing thought they probably don’t wish to entertain. Opaque statements can be just as revealing of what’s in a person’s heart. I don’t know in what Christian universe such things need to be tolerated for meaningful relationships to occur or how relationships based on that would have anything to do with Christianity. It’s not like this is a secular romantic relationship we’re talking about where things happen where one person understood it completely different than the other and it becomes confusing whether or not there was harassment or assault. We’re talking about Christians of opposite gender working together at a ministry and at least one is married. It’s not rocket science. if there’s any possibility there will be offense it should be avoided. The only possible point of confusion I can see in the Christian context is between two single people, when one is interested and the other isn’t. How does the interested one express interest without making the uninterested one uncomfortable. I think that’s a case where the discomfort is unavoidable and needs to be accepted. If the interested party expresses their interest and are rejected they should respect that and not cause any further discomfort to the other. They might be confident that if they persist they will win the other over. I guess if they take that approach they should know they are risking getting a negative reaction and being accused of harassment. But when a single Christian girl labels a guy negatively because he expressed interest once, that’s just wrong. I digress…So maybe this situation doesn’t rise to full blown legal definition of sexual harassment (maybe it does) and maybe there are some false motivations and opportunism coming against him. When so much time goes by and accusations are made at an opportune moment, it does raise questions. But in this report it says there were complaints made a few years ago and the other professor says she has been walking with a victim for some time. If his version of the racial/ethnic slur incident is correct I do think that accusation is ridiculous, especially if the person he supposedly used it against is participating in it with him and laughing with him about it. In that case, it makes me wonder who made that complaint against him and how desperate are people to find dirt on him? Unless of course his version of what happened isn’t accurate.
To Mr. Eric Bartl – At one time (more than 10 years ago) I lived in Chicago and was a member of Moody Church, so hence my interest and concern about your comment. When you say, “Look at what has happened at Moody Church and elsewhere” did you mean Moody Bible Institute or actually Moody Church? From reading Julie’s reports I’m aware of what happened at MBI, but not Moody Church. Although they have similar roots and MBI has used the church’s sanctuary for large events, I believe they are two separate organizations with different boards. Would you be so kind as to clarify your last statement regarding Moody Church? If it is true that Moody Church has “compromised with morality and opened the door for liberals to take over” I would appreciate any articles or reports you can give me on this matter. Thank you.
I think there are cases of individuals who compromised with morality and individuals with liberal perspectives who have come in. It’s more something beneath the surface. But if you want to look at Ed Stetzer’s Twitter page over the past few years, especially during the 2016 election season, you might get a bit of an idea of what I’m referring to.
Why all the speculation on the content of the articles? Why was Tim Blackmon not willing to comment on the record? Surely he could say which articles he gave to the complainant?
There still seem to be so many questions open. The article above seems to imply that Dr. Jones coordinated a behind the scenes effort against Tim after he was terminated at least in part to facilitate “culture change that will help Wheaton”. Did she play the same role during the investigation? If so, how could having this powerful adversary with differing theological views bias the investigation against him? If the case against Tim is so strong, why was Dr. Jones looking for more information against Tim after he was terminated? It seems like if Wheaton had a strong case against Tim, there would be no need to try to find additional negative information against Tim after they terminated him.
Also, the timing of the Title 9 charges seem odd. Was Tim warned in any way 4-5 years ago that the complaintant did not appreciate his humor? Did the complaintant participate in the joking and in that way encourage Tim to keep making further jokes or did Tim just keep making jokes as the complaintant continually ignored them? If the events in question happened 4-5 years ago, what happened immediately preceding the filing to cause the title 9 charges to be filed recently? Why wait 4-5 years to file a Title 9 complaint if the incidents were as bad as Wheaton described?
It is very convenient for Rev. Blackmon to use the race card when needed to cloud the real issue of his dismissal; his character, actions and words unbecoming of a Christian and Chaplain. I do not believe that Wheaton College (WC) would have hired Rev. Blackmon in the first place if race was an issue. The College Fix article stated that African Americans (AA) comprise of 3% of the student body in 2017 at WC. One cannot conclude from these statistics that WC wishes to keep the AA student body to a minimum. 1. With school competing for students as well as declining enrollment; it would be detrimental for WC and any schools not to welcome all students with open arms and hands with the accompanying tuition dollars. 2. Unless one wants to attend a private Christian college; there are other schools that are more prestigious in name, statute and academics; Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Standford to name a few. Thus the lower diversity at WC. 3. One’s personal preference to attend a school with students of similar ethnicity, background, income and interest. Again the lower diversity at WC. Using Rev. Blackmon’s argument; Tuskegee, Morehouse and Howard University wishes to keep me as a Chinese-American and the Asian student body enrollment to a minimum and keep their black identity”. The second smoke screen is his dismissal based on theological differences. Yet he doesn’t address in detail if his actions were appropriate for a minister of the Gospel and role model for future leaders. The main issue is the impropriety for a Christian and Chaplain to give a “how-to” book like the Karma Sutra whether in jest or not. If my mother, wife, sister or daughter received this type of book from their supervisor; I would have major concern of his spirituality, intent and motives; a gateway to something more sinister that leads to sin. Rev. Blackmon should his dismissal as an opening to apply for a Chaplain’s position with the Washington NFL Team (formerly known as the Redskins). The atmosphere, camaraderie and culture would be in line with his calling and belief system.
As a Dutch, as a Theologian, as a Minister of the Dutch Reformed Church, I know Rev.Tim Blackmon very well. For over six years I studied after my retirement the American Political and Cultural scene on a daily basis.The World became small brothers and sisters through the social media.Even in my small Country we got a deep inside in the things which happen at this moment in the US. Its not up to me to Judge a nation, but a little bit theological and psychological introspection would be a good starting point.Personally I do it on a daily basis talking to God in the Council with Prophets and Apostles,including the Holy Trinity.
I’ve read the reasons why they determined the Chaplain Rev. Blackmon. First I could not believe my eyes, and afterwards I had to oppresse a certain kind of anger, for such an unprofessional approach. Specially because the determinators of Rev. Blackmon claim to have a great education, representing a College with certain professional standards.
But also from a Biblical standpoint this Chaplain did not get the possibility to be treated inside the Congregation of believers.
What I mean to say is this. Here is an ordained Minister of the Christian Church by the laying on of hands. From a Paulinic ecclesiological perspective is this a gift of the Spirit, and St. Paul remembers his younger friend Timothy (Rev.Blackmon is also called Timothy)not to forget the Authorisation which he got when he was ordained by the Ministers of the Church.
The Chaplain is thrown away like Gabbage, it shows that our Protestant denominations have never understood the Apostolic succession of Ordination, and not only that,They have never understood the ontological implications of the Church, rooted in the Christus Incarnatus,Crucifixus,and Ressurrectus, including the implications of reconciliation of the Kosmos and mankind through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The second thing is that if there was a kind of wrong doing by a slip of the tongue, and a Sister of a Brother was bringing this to the knowledge of the Brother who made this slip of the tonque, she could have finished directly this so called wrongdoing by telling him that she was not very amused.. Because I know the Chaplain that he is absolutely open to correction. In stead of acting on that very moment this the person is waiting four or five years.Strange,isn’t it?
Every healthy Spirit feels that there is something wrong not only Pastorally and Ecclesiastically, but also Psychologically with the person(s) who accused this Minister. Has there been een deeper research to the life and Childhood of these accuser(s)? And not only that, has there been a study that the accusers became maybe very Political correct as an analogy with the me-too movement?
Do not want to comment on the statements of Dr.Jones, every person with a professional Pastoral Spirit feels that this Lady has acted very unprofessional, not according to the Standards of an educated Dr in Theology, at least after European Ecclesiastical Standards. She is very much accentuating the victims in me-too, and is looking to this Minister and Chaplain , identifying him with the bad guys who did really wrong things. I can definitely say: HE IS NOT. He is criminalised without fundament.
Also from a Collegial perspective we call in Europe such people backstabbers or a snitch.Am not so pious to dump this qualification. Dont want to be that pious.After 40 years of service in Gods Kingdom I developed a certain instinct towards people who are not living in the freedom of the Gospel. They returned to the first principles of this World, and became Archaic(Arche in the Greek language) Christians, stagnated to accept the full consequences of the freedom of the Gospel and be guided by the H.Spirit, and made from the Gospel a new Law.
From my perspective the Puritanistic Spirit(there is also a solid Puritanism) which is deeply rooted in Journalism, Politics, and Christianity, specificly in the US at this present moment, has brought an hyper sensitive Spirit into the Christian Congregations who see behind every expression the devil and evilness. This is almost Pathological.This Legalistic,Archaic and Perfectionistic approach under the flag of Bible verses is killing the FIRST LOVE which Christ plants into the hearts of all Regenerated Christians.
The Chaplain is now determined, and righteousness is dying in Christian institutions by such practices. Secular Anarchism is causing in Christian circles a fear, and they overreact their fear by determinating in a Legalistic way a fine Preachter like Rev.T.Blackmon. Here is the Word of John, written in old times:if we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.1 John 1:8.
Hope my English is not to bad to understand it, dont think that I was speaking in tongues.
To Daniel Fabritius: I fully agree with all your comments. Indeed, this Dr. Jones, who calls herself a professor (!), has acted very unprofessional and looks like a back-stabber. Removing messages from Facebook and playing fool when asked where these text messages came from…how naïve she is. And President Ryken let this all happen on his watch! He should start scratching his head…
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