Home Christian News Grace College Professor Ousted After Online Commentators Flag ‘Woke’ Social Media Posts

Grace College Professor Ousted After Online Commentators Flag ‘Woke’ Social Media Posts

Grace College Matthew Warner
Matthew Warner. (Photo by Chinges E. Sabol/Grace College & Seminary)

(RNS) — With glowing performance reviews and above-average student evaluations, by most measures Matthew Warner’s first year as a communications professor at Grace College was a triumph.

But he spent most of that first year knowing it could be his last. After four months on the job, Warner was informed by the school’s president, Drew Flamm, that the board had “come to the conclusion that we don’t think it works out to move forward,” according to a recording obtained by Religion News Service.

Warner’s termination is the latest in a string professor terminations at Christian colleges seemingly tied to clashes over narrowing and often unspoken political and theological criteria. While Flamm didn’t specify the reasons for Warner’s dismissal, it was preceded by an online termination campaign clear about its goals. Launched by conservative influencers and Grace College stakeholders, the campaign demanded Warner’s removal due to his social media posts about LGBTQ rights, Black Lives Matter and critiques of the GOP. Almost all the posts predated Warner’s employment at the college.

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Grace College declined to answer questions about Warner, saying it was a personnel matter. “Dr. Matt Warner fulfilled his agreement for the year. Grace College wishes Dr. Warner well in his future endeavors,” Norm Bakhit, Grace College’s chief officer of human resources, told RNS in a statement. Flamm did not offer further comment.

Warner and his wife said they both left behind jobs and sold their home in metro Detroit to move with their three kids to Warsaw, Indiana, for Warner’s job at Grace. It was his dream position, they said, and noted that they gave up 60% of their income for him to take it. Warner was eager to work with colleagues he described as “world class,” and quickly became known for his interactive teaching style and enthusiastic participation in department events, according to student evaluations and interviews with faculty. Early on, administrators tapped him to be a faculty mentor to first-year students.

Then, in October, Warner learned there was a group of local moms calling for him to be fired. Warner traced the outcry back to a Facebook post by Evan Kilgore, a Grace alum and onetime employee who captured screenshots of Warner’s past tweets, which included such phrases as “I support gay marriage,” “My pronouns are he/they,” “Tucker Carlson is fascist” and “When Christendom is conservative it ceases to be transformative.”

Monica Boyer’s Facebook post. (Screen grab)

A former Turning Point USA ambassador and now faith-based political commentator, Kilgore told RNS he posted because “parents might want to be aware of somebody who has influence over their child with these beliefs.”

Kilgore said he was originally tipped off about Warner’s posts by Monica Boyer, a Grace College parent and local political organizer. While Kilgore’s post clarified that he was not calling for Warner’s termination, Boyer took a different approach.

“I am OFFICIALLY calling on Grace College to fire this professor IMMEDIATELY,” Boyer wrote on Facebook. “The devil probably shouldn’t mess with moms who fight for their kids,” she wrote the same day, adding that moms were driving around campus, praying.

Warner proactively met with supervisors as Boyer’s repeated demands gained traction among her nearly 8,000 Facebook followers. But initial conversations weren’t reassuring. Flamm and Bakhit, the chief human resources officer, told Warner he wasn’t yet a faculty member because the board hadn’t ratified him. Now, the board was considering voting against Warner’s ratification, a move that would end his employment.

Warner, who distinguishes between his support of people’s civil rights and his theological convictions, said he had no qualms with the school’s faith standards or lifestyle commitments. Affiliated with Charis Fellowship, a theologically conservative network of churches with roots in German pietism, Grace College requires all faculty to sign a lifestyle commitment that affirms marriage as between one man and one woman and bans homosexual behavior.

“They’ve created a caricature of me based on taking a very small number of social media posts out of context,” Warner said. “I was treated from the beginning as a threat or liability. 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.”

The news that he wasn’t already a faculty member also came as a shock.

“Most faculty here seemed very surprised to learn that two months after they moved here and started their jobs, they technically were still not employees,” one faculty member, who requested not to be named, told RNS.

Campus of Grace College & Seminary in Winona Lake, IN. (Image courtesy Google Maps)

Campus of Grace College & Seminary in Winona Lake, Ind. (Image courtesy Google Maps)

In mid-October, Flamm offered Warner the option to voluntarily resign, and, alternatively, outlined a “potential pathway forward” that involved meeting regularly with Flamm and other administrators to restore trust before the board’s ratification vote.

But the “path forward” never materialized, according to Warner, who had emailed Bakhit asking for a breakdown of the process. Bakhit told him there were no specific steps. Warner met with some administrators, but not with Flamm.