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Evangelical college dismisses professor accused of ‘woke’ posts

Evangelical college dismisses professor accused of ‘woke’ posts
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The campus of Grace College, a Christian liberal arts institution based in Winona Lake, Indiana.

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The campus of Grace College, a Christian liberal arts institution based in Winona Lake, Indiana. | Courtesy Grace College

A private Evangelical college in Indiana has dismissed a professor following opposition from critics upset with his past social media posts, which voiced support for same-sex marriage and declared that his pronouns were “he/they.”

Grace College recently released Matthew Warner, a communications professor at the Winona Lake school, who started teaching there at the start of the academic year last August.

While the college did not give a specific reason, Religion News Service reported Wednesday that it was “preceded by an online termination campaign” organized by “conservative influencers and Grace College stakeholders.”

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At issue were progressive viewpoints expressed by Warner on social media regarding LGBT issues and Black Lives Matter that predated his time at Grace.

The Christian Post contacted Grace College for this story, with a spokesperson saying that Warner had “fulfilled his agreement for the year.”

“Grace College wishes Dr. Warner well in his future endeavors. As with all personnel matters, we are unable to provide further comment,” the spokesperson added.

Warner previously earned a bachelor of science in print journalism and communication, a master’s in public address and communication from Liberty University, and a Ph.D. in communication from Wayne State University.

Founded in 1948, Grace College is affiliated with the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches and reported over 1,300 students attending on its Winona Lake campus in the fall semester. On its website, Grace states that every class taught at the institution is “faith integrated and taught by faithful followers of Christ.”

“We teach the Scriptures as the ultimate truth in our classes, which means our sciences are approached from a creationist perspective, and we encourage our engineers to change the world,” the website reads.

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Last October, Grace alumnus Evan Kilgore posted an open letter to Grace “friends and family” on Facebook, expressing concern over Warner’s past social media posts.

Kilgore included screenshots of multiple tweets in which Warner identified his pronouns as “he/they,” called opposition to gay marriage “bigotry” and claimed that being “anti-woke” meant being “anti-Black.”

“Can a professor with this strong of a clearly radicalized ideological hatred of Right-Wing political views truly be an unbiased voice of Christian theology in a young person’s life? Is this the heritage and legacy you believe Grace should be known for?” wrote Kilgore.

“I truly want to express that this is not a personal attack on the professor, nor do I want (or believe) it should be. I encourage you to tag your friends to bring attention to this and discuss with them any concerns you may have in loving and respectful ways.”

Other critics, like Monica Boyer, who has a child enrolled at the school and is also a local political organizer, took to Facebook to demand that the college fire Warner for his posts.

In an interview with Grace College published last August, Warner said he was most looking forward to two things when teaching at the Indiana Christian school.

“First, personal-professional growth. My colleagues in the Department of the Humanities are brilliant, and I’m very much looking forward to working with them and having them sharpen my intellect, my teaching, and my research agenda,” Warner said last year.

“Second, is sharing my ongoing research and growth with students in real time. I believe knowledge is active and growing, and what I bring into the classroom — in best-case scenarios — is new and exciting to both me and my students.”

Warner said his courses “strive to unpack exactly what it means to be made in the image of God, what it means to love people well, and what the core non-negotiables of following Jesus are.”

In response to the push to remove him from Grace, Warner told RNS that his critics “created a caricature of me based on taking a very small number of social media posts out of context.”

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“I was treated from the beginning as a threat or liability,” he was quoted as saying. “And nobody at any time had a conversation with me about what I believe, or what I’m willing to do to support the college.” 

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