Dartmouth forced to rescind Anglican bishop’s job offer

Eric Owens | Editor

Dartmouth College has demonstrated its vigorous commitment to tolerance and the free exchange of ideas this week by extending a job offer to a leading African bishop whose views on homosexuality differ from the views overwhelmingly held by elites.

No, wait. Scratch that. Scratch that utterly and completely.

Dartmouth has retracted a deanship previously offered to Bishop James Tengatenga of the Anglican Diocese of Southern Malawi because he has criticized homosexuality in the past, reports The Boston Globe.

Tengatenga had already quit his post as a diocesan leader of the Anglican Communion (which claims 85 million members worldwide). He will now be out of a job and could have trouble finding one, at least in Malawi, because he took great pains to assuage his critics at Dartmouth by expressing public support for gay marriage and calling discrimination against gays a sin.

Homosexuality remains highly illegal in Malawi.

Trouble started brewing at the Ivy League school at some point after Tengatenga had been appointed to oversee the William Jewett Tucker Foundation, a celebrated campus institution that “seeks to be a nationally recognized model of moral and transformation leadership in higher education.”

Opponents of the appointment seized on a few statements Tengatenga has made in the past. He strongly opposed the election of Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion, for example. Also, in 2011, he noted that Anglican dioceses in Malawi stood “totally against homosexuality.”

The vast LGBT apparatus at Dartmouth sprang into action to prevent the appointment of Tengatenga.

“Nobody would actually hire anybody who spoke out privately against apartheid in South Africa but not on the record,” senior lecturer in women’s and gender studies Michael Bronski told The Globe.

Bronski also estimated that some 60 percent of the gay male undergraduates in his courses have been called insulting names or hassled at fraternity parties.

Jordan Terry, president Dartmouth’s NAACP chapter, agreed. He sent a letter to the administration signed by students and staff who worried about the appointment of someone who disagrees with them.

“The administration has claimed that this particular dean is the moral spokesman for Dartmouth.” Terry told The Globe. 

Dartmouth’s new president, Philip J. Hanlon, ultimately decided to rescind Tengatenga’s job offer. Speaking for the school where the Latin motto translates to “A voice crying out in the wilderness,” Hanlon asserted that Tengatenga’s previous statements critical of homosexuality had compromised his ability to direct the Tucker Foundation.

“The foundation and Dartmouth’s commitment to inclusion are too important to be mired in discord over this appointment,” Hanlon said.

Meanwhile, supporters of Tengatenga described the bishop as a brave and moral man who has dedicated his life to helping some of society’s most marginalized individuals.

“You are asking the impossible of someone coming out of that African situation,” the Rev. Nicholas Henderson, a parish priest in West London and an editor of Anglicanism.org, told The Globe. “Just rescinding that [appointment] is to show a lamentable lack of understanding of circumstances that are outside the confines of privileged North America.”

The Rev. Kapya John Kaoma argued that Tengatenga has helped gay activists in Malawi to the extent it was possible under the political and cultural conditions that exist there.

“All human rights defenders in Africa are working under very, very hard conditions, and the violence against them is always there.” Kaoma vented to The Globe. “What they have done is exposed Bishop Tengatenga and then dumped him back into Malawi.”

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