Tutu defends bishop of Malawi

Southern Malawi Bishop James Tengatenga. File photo: Marites N. Sison
Southern Malawi Bishop James Tengatenga. File photo: Marites N. Sison
Published September 4, 2013

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is one of fourteen signatories to an article in Living Church magazine entitled Defending Bishop Tengatenga.

The article highlighted what the fourteen said was a “gross injustice” to Bishop of Southern Malawi James Tengatenga whose job offer was withdrawn by New Hampshire’s Dartmouth College following complaints made by some students and staff.

The complainants’ main issue was with the Bishop’s statements on sexuality which he recently clarified in an article for the College newspaper. Nevertheless, a month after he was offered the position of Dean of the William Jewett Tucker Foundation at Dartmouth College, it was rescinded by college president Philip J. Hanlon.

“The President’s decision brought applause from some in the Dartmouth community,” it said. “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.”

The article went on to question why opponents of Bp Tengatenga’s appointment had relied on just two statements issued by the Bishop “in the complicated institutional and historical contexts of the Anglican Communion’s evolving position on homosexuality”. It also asked why they had failed to acknowledge any of his other work to promote equal rights for all.

The article continued, “Tengatenga has not only lost the opportunity to lead the Tucker Foundation, he now finds himself facing unemployment [after resigning as Bishop of Southern Malawi] and has become a convenient political target in a setting where open support for LGBTQ rights – which he has articulated – can be dangerous.

“Why do Africans continue to need to learn the language of North Americans, but North Americans don’t need to make any effort to understand Africans and how rights activists operate there? Some of us signatory to this letter have had our houses set on fire or been forced into exile because of what we believe in and try to fight for.

“Tengatenga himself received death threats for exposing government corruption. Are these lives that Dartmouth students, LGBTQ or otherwise, need to be protected from? Or are they examples that can indeed inspire individuals to ‘lives of purpose and ethical leadership, rooted in service, spirituality, and social justice’?”

Read the article here.



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