Updated Thursday morning
Bishop James Tengatenga has been in the news recently because Dartmouth College reneged on a job offer they made to him, after he had already resigned his previous position as Bishop of Southern Malawi. See for example this ENS report by Matthew Davies Dartmouth withdraws Tengatenga’s appointment as foundation dean:
Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, has withdrawn the appointment of former Southern Malawi Bishop James Tengatenga as dean of its Tucker Foundation saying that his past comments about homosexuality “have compromised his ability to serve effectively.”
Meanwhile, some North American church leaders are surprised and saddened by the decision, saying that they know Tengatenga as a bridge-builder and reconciler who has a deep understanding of the complex issues concerning human sexuality.
Tengatenga, a long-standing member and current chair of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), the Anglican Communion’s main policy-making body, announced in mid-July that after 15 years as bishop of Southern Malawi he was tendering his resignation to become the Virginia Rice Kelsey Dean of the William Jewett Tucker Foundation at Dartmouth College from Jan. 1, 2014…
Today the Living Church has published a letter signed by a number of notable people, which criticises Dartmouth College. See Defending Bishop Tengatenga:
Dartmouth’s folly and the struggle for LGBTQ rights in Africa
Earlier this summer an offer was made to the Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga, Anglican Bishop of Southern Malawi, to become the next Virginia Rice Kelsey ’61s Dean of the William Jewett Tucker Foundation at Dartmouth College, an organization charged with educating students and the Dartmouth community into “lives of purpose and ethical leadership, rooted in service, spirituality, and social justice.” Tengatenga accepted, announced his resignation as Bishop of Southern Malawi, made plans to come to Dartmouth in early 2014, and news of the appointment was made public on July 16. With a swiftness that hardly seemed possible, even in this age of electronic communication, messages started to circulate on blogs and over email, as were letters of protest sent to the College’s top administrators, charging the Bishop with homophobia. On July 22 the Dartmouth College Chapter of the NAACP sent a letter protesting the appointment to the president, provost, and members of the search committee…
Much of this communication was vague. Some of it, however, was quite specific, citing comments made by Tengatenga on matters related to human sexuality within the context of the Anglican Communion. Despite issuing a statement declaring his unequivocal support for marriage equality and the sanctity of human rights for all individuals appearing on the official “Dartmouth Now” site, Tengatenga continued to be criticized. One month after his appointment was announced, the President of the College, Philip J. Hanlon, released a statement saying that the appointment had been rescinded.
The President’s decision brought applause from some in the Dartmouth community. Others were appalled, as are we. The action represents a gross injustice to an individual who would have made an ideal person to provide moral and ethical leadership at the College. It casts serious doubts on what is being learned in American universities when members of those communities fail to distinguish between public positions of institutions and the views of individuals who participate in those institutions. It reflects badly on western human rights advocates who consciously or unconsciously engage in forms of cultural imperialism that undermine their own success and credibility by demanding proofs identical to their own kind and, in this instance, by also ignoring the voices of Africans and church leaders who have known and worked with Tengatenga in some cases for decades….
Do read the entire letter.
A response to this letter by Joseph Asch has been published at Dartblog A Public Letter for Tengatenga. This response contains numerous links to earlier discussions on the same site.