Wall Street Journal A Test of Faith "A professor's firing from an evangelical school after his conversion to Catholicism highlights a new orthodoxy at religious colleges" (login required)
WHEATON, Ill. — Wheaton College was delighted to have assistant professor Joshua Hochschild teach students about medieval philosopher Thomas Aquinas, one of Roman Catholicism’s foremost thinkers.
But when the popular teacher converted to Catholicism, the prestigious evangelical college reacted differently. It fired him.
Wheaton, like many evangelical colleges, requires full-time faculty members to be Protestants and sign a statement of belief in “biblical doctrine that is consonant with evangelical Christianity.” In a letter notifying Mr. Hochschild of the college’s decision, Wheaton’s president said his “personal desire” to retain “a gifted brother in Christ” was outweighed by his duty to employ “faculty who embody the institution’s evangelical Protestant convictions.”
Mr. Hochschild, 33 years old, who was considered by his department a shoo-in for tenure, says he’s still willing to sign the Wheaton faith statement. He left last spring, taking a 10% pay cut and roiling his family life, to move to a less-renowned Catholic college.
Mr. Hochschild’s dismissal captures tensions coursing through many of America’s religious colleges. At these institutions, which are mostly Protestant or Catholic, decisions about hiring and retaining faculty members are coming into conflict with a resurgence of religious identity.
Historically, religious colleges mainly picked faculty of their own faith. In the last third of the 20th century, however, as enrollments soared and higher education boomed, many Catholic colleges enhanced their prestige by broadening their hiring, choosing professors on the basis of teaching and research. As animosities between Catholics and Protestants thawed, some evangelical Protestant colleges began hiring faculty from other Christian faiths.
But now a conservative reaction is setting in, part of a broader push against the secularization of American society. Fearful of forsaking their spiritual and educational moorings, colleges are increasingly “hiring for mission,” as the catch phrase goes, even at the cost of eliminating more academically qualified candidates….