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Leninist academics block Tengatenga appointment at Dartmouth: The Church of England Newspaper, August 23, 2013 p 6. August 26, 2013

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James Tengatenga

The president of Dartmouth College Philip J. Hanlon has blocked the appointment of the Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga as dean for moral and spiritual life at the American university. While the Malawian bishop and chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council now backs gay marriage, his past support for the church’s traditional teaching made him too controversial for the school.

The 14 Aug 2013 announcement by Pres. Hanlon leaves Dr. Tengatenga without a job and a country. Last month he resigned as Bishop of Southern Malawi upon being appointed dean at the New Hampshire college – and his new found support for gay marriage will make his position untenable in the conservative African nation. Without a job, his American visa will lapse and Dr. Tengatenga will also come under pressure to step down as ACC chairman in light of his commitment to the American cause within the sharply divided Anglican Communion.

Bishop Tengatenga said he was disappointed the university had withdrawn his appointment as Virginia Rice Kelsey Dean of the William Jewett Tucker Foundation at Dartmouth College following protests by gay activists. He told the Episcopal News Service had “chosen to trust bigotry over truth and justice.”

Following his appointment gay activists at Dartmouth began an internet search on the bishop and found news reports in the Church of England Newspaper that detailed Dr. Tengatenga’s support for gays in Malawi and his work fighting corruption, abuse and tyranny in Central Africa. They also found the bishop had affirmed the church’s traditional teaching on marriage and had objected to the 2003 appointment of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.

Confronted with his past statements the bishop said his views had evolved in recent years and he now backed “marriage equality” and saw Bishop Robinson’s appointment as a “blessing” for the church.  However gay activists argued the bishop’s new found support for the gay agenda were too little and too late. A professor of African-American studies also suggested that the bishop was an opportunist, changing his views to suit his new employer.

A Zambian priest resident in the US, the Rev. Kapya John Kaoma, told the Boston Globe the bishop’s rejection would have wider repercussions. “This is a big blow, because it leaves African activists on the ground wondering if they can work with Westerners,” Fr. Kaoma said.

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

A Dartmouth faculty member told CEN the American “left refused even to recognize [Tengatenga] as one of their own.  He unwittingly and in circumstances scarcely imaginable here violated their language code; their own moral pride compelled them to relegate him to the status of outcast, unfit to exercise moral leadership in our community.”

“I don’t think my perception is entirely distorted when I notice a Leninist streak in the American liberal arts left.”

Has the gay movement peaked?: Get Religion, August 23, 2013 August 24, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of the Province of Central Africa, Get Religion, Press criticism.
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In a speech delivered at the Mansion House in London on 10 Nov 1942, Winston Churchill predicted the British victory at the battle of El Alamein would mark the turn of the tide of Germany’s fortunes. The hitherto unstoppable Wehrmacht had been defeated, and the historical inevitability of a German victory was gone. But, he added ….

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

I was reminded of Churchill’s words while reading an article by Paul Gottfried in the current issue of the Salisbury Review. In an article entitled “Cooling Off on Gay Marriage“, Gottfried argued the social left had reached its zenith with the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. The urgency of the campaign to legalize gay marriage was animated by a desire to seize the moment.

Rather there is awareness that the present campaign to mainstream and even glorify gay marriage cannot be sustained forever. It may be reaching its limits in being able to convert people to a bizarre idea, no matter how much money and expensive propaganda have been thrown at it.

He argues support for gay marriage is “far shakier than the media would allow us to believe”, citing tight poll numbers and the spate of electoral defeats for gay marriage in all but the most politically liberal states. The campaign for gay marriage was anti-populist, driven by elites seeking to shape the culture. Public acceptance remained mixed, even in the face of a concerted political/social campaign to bring about its acceptance.

This does not even factor in the new, edifying TV shows featuring loving gay couples and quarrelsome heterosexual ones, the movies showing similar epiphanies, glaringly biased news coverage, and the steady work of our public educational institutions in getting the kids to celebrate gayness and same sex marriage.

He concludes:

The power establishment has moved too far too fast on the issue of gay marriage; and it may not be able to keep up the pace of its efforts to erode traditional and until recently the only concept of marriage, as a heterosexual union.

This is an interesting argument, to say the least — and one I have not heard bandied about in the popular media. Time will tell if Gottfried is right, but I believe there are stirrings in the culture that may foreshadow a Thermidorian reaction against the excesses of the social left. In this week’s edition of Crossroads, Issues Etc. host Todd Wilkens and I discussed my recent story at GetReligion on the defenestration of James Tengatenga.

Tengatenga — a liberal Anglican bishop from Malawi — had been hired as dean for moral and spiritual life at Dartmouth. Shortly after his appointment was announced, gay activists began opposition research on the bishop — treating him as if he were Robert Bork and they aides to Teddy Kennedy. They unearthed a number of stories I wrote about Tengatenga in The Church of England Newspaper where he endorsed the church’s traditional view on gay sex — e.g., that it was a sin — and also found statements he made questioning the appointment of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. (Robinson was the first “gay” bishop.

They also found stories I had written about Tengatenga’s role as an advocate for Malawi’s gays, whom the government would scapegoat from time to time when it needed a villain to explain failed state policies. Like the Tsars and the Jews, an old fashioned pogrom against gays in Central Africa helps let off steam. However, these pieces did not carry the emotional impact of Tengatenga’s support for traditional Christian moral teachings. Even when Tengatenga announced he had switched sides and now supported “marriage equality” this was not enough for his critics who charged the bishop was not a true believer in the gay cause, but an opportunistic convert. Dartmouth College’s president buckled under the pressure and canned Tengatenga for being too controversial.

In my reporting on this story for the church press I spoke with one member of the search committee who believed the revolution was now consuming its own. Rather than welcome a convert to their cause, the academic left treated Tengatenga as a deviationist who must be purged for the good of Dartmouth. The old Popular Front “no enemies on the left” mantra was now more.

The idea of the left taking care of their own calls to mind the Republican friendly fire of the Spanish Civil War.  In this case, the left refused even to recognize him as one of their own.  He unwittingly and in circumstances scarcely imaginable here violated their language code; their own moral pride compelled them to relegate him to the status of outcast, unfit to exercise moral leadership in our community.  I don’t think my perception is entirely distorted when I notice a Leninist streak in the American liberal arts left.

When the revolution turns on its own — be it the Terror of the French Revolution, the Stalinist purges, Mao’s Cultural Revolution — the initial ideological phase comes to an end. Whether Tengatenga’s purge makes the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end, I know not — but it does mark a shift in attitudes. I am not sure if Gottfried is correct — though I find his arguments entertaining. But the Tengatenga affair — an incident of interest to the small community of Dartmouth College and Anglican church watchers — may be a sign that the peak has been reached and the tide will soon go out.

First printed in Get Religion.

Interview: Issues Etc., August 19, 2013 August 21, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of the Province of Central Africa, Issues.
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Here is an to an interview I gave to the Issues, Etc. show of Lutheran Public Radio broadcast on 19 August 2013.

2. Media Coverage of Dartmouth College’s Reversal of an African Bishop’s Appointment – George Conger, 8/19/13″ href=”http://issuesetc.org/2013/08/19/2-media-coverage-of-dartmouth-colleges-reversal-of-an-african-bishops-appointment-george-conger-81913/”>2. Media Coverage of Dartmouth College’s Reversal of an African Bishop’s Appointment – George Conger, 8/19/13

George Conger of GetReligion.org

Podcast: Download (Duration: 14:30 — 6.0MB)

GetReligion

Scapegoating James Tengatenga: Get Religion, August 18, 2013 August 19, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of the Province of Central Africa, Get Religion, Press criticism.
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Dartmouth College President Philip J. Hanlon’s decision to nix the appointment of Bishop James Tengatenga as dean for moral and spiritual life has sparked spirited commentary from left and right  — and some solid reporting. An article in the Boston Globe entitled “Words on gays cost bishop post at Dartmouth” is a well sourced, balanced story that succinctly summarizes the issues at play.

The lede begins:

Dartmouth College has rescinded the appointment of a prominent African bishop as dean of a campus institution that focuses on furthering the moral and spiritual work of the school because of controversy over his views on homosexuality.

The extraordinary move by Dartmouth’s new president, Philip J. Hanlon, to retract the college’s offer won praise from those who raised concerns about how the appointment would affect gay students on a campus that has sometimes struggled with intolerance.

But it left Bishop James Tengatenga of the Anglican Diocese of Southern Malawi without a job and far out on a limb on gay issues in a country that still criminalizes homosexuality.

The article points out the irony of Dartmouth’s refusal to countenance any deviation from conventional wisdom in the name of “tolerance” — but it does this not by being preachy, but by allowing both sides to speak. Supporters and opponents of the appointment can recognize their views in this story, and it is left up to the reader to discern where the truth (and justice) lies.

I was particularly impressed by the Globe‘s sources from within the Anglican world. The commentators, while drawn exclusively from the liberal wing of the church, were first class. And the newspaper broke free from an America-only perspective, offering voices from America/Britain as well as Africa.

True, voices representing the views of the vast majority of African Anglicans were missing from this story, as was an explanation of these views — why does homosexuality evoke such strong moral and social disapprobation in Africa? Why do politicians use homosexuality as a club to beat their opponents? But does this represent a failure to “Get Religion?”

Were I the author of the piece I would have placed more emphasis on the religious/political culture from which Bishop Tengatenga arose, but the “I would have done it differently” argument is not about criticism but is a matter of taste. The rules of the craft — balance, context, detail, integrity — were all met by this well written piece.

A note of disclosure is in order though. I was peripherally involved in this mare’s nest.

This summer someone in the hierarchy of the Church of the Province of Central Africa — the Anglican body that includes Bishop Tengatenga’s Diocese of Southern Malawi — leaked news the bishop had resigned and was coming to America. A Malawian newspaper then printed the rumor (printing rumors as news is not uncommon, unfortunately, in the African press.)

I contacted Bishop Tengatenga and asked him to confirm the story — and he responded it was true, but added he was annoyed the newspaper had printed the story without checking with him. He had yet to finalize the deal with Dartmouth and had not yet received his visa. I wrote up the first Western account and thought that would be that — a mildly interesting people/places story of interest to church insiders and the Dartmouth community.

I first met the bishop in 1998 and had written a number of stories over the years about his work in Malawi and within the wider Anglican Communion — which he served as chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council — a pan-Anglican agency that seeks to foster conversation among the disparate churches of the communion. Bishop Tengatenga had earned the trust of the liberal churches of North America and Europe, who saw him as a fair, impartial chairman. Within the sharply divided world of Anglicanism, Bishop Tengatenga was one of the few leaders who could move between the conservative and liberal camps and be received and respected by both sides. The bishop had also gained a reputation as a fearless opponent of corruption and political tyranny in Africa. When political leaders in Malawi sought to demonize gays — following the lead of Robert Mugabe in neighboring Zimbabwe to deflect attention away from failed government economic and social policies by selecting a scapegoat, the bishop forced the government to face up to its actions.

I should note that this sort of thing gets one killed in Africa. I’ve written stories about bishops dying in mysterious car crashes, or being jailed and harassed after they campaigned against their governments.

Anti-gay campaigns in Africa, I should add, have little or nothing to do with homosexuality. In African politics homosexuals play the roll Jews played for the Nazis in Germany, or Kulaks for Stalin, or the Chinese in Indonesia, or Israelis play for Islamists — a propitiatory sacrifice for the mob. (Calling René Girard) Nor should we assume that America’s gay culture is the model for the gay cultures of other societies. The world just does not work that way.

But back to our story. Gay activists at Dartmouth began an internet search on Tengatenga and came across some of the stories I had written for the Church of England Newspaper over the years. Quotes were lifted from these stories that seemed to contradict the bishop’s current views. A member of the Darmouth search committee telephoned and asked me to help them understand the context and meaning of the stories. The bishop had told them his views had evolved over time and he had given them a nuanced statement of his beliefs — affirming his Christian faith and his views on equality. James Tengatenga, by his own profession, was now a liberal Anglican.

Had the bishop modified his views to mollify his critics?, they wanted to know. Paris may have been worth a mass, but was Hanover NH worth a wedding? I thought not — but could not speak to the bishop’s beliefs.

And then Pres. Hanlon dropped his bomb. And the story unfolded as reported by the Globe.

The fears voiced in the Globe article by Zambian exile the Rev. Kapya John Kaoma:

“This is a big blow, because it leaves African activists on the ground wondering if they can work with Westerners,” Kaoma said. “All human rights defenders in Africa are working under very, very hard conditions, and the violence against them is always there. What they have done is exposed Bishop Tengatenga and then dumped him back into Malawi.”

Were echoed by a member of the Dartmouth faculty, who told me:

The idea of the left taking care of their own calls to mind the Republican friendly fire of the Spanish Civil War.  In this case, the left refused even to recognize him as one of their own.  He unwittingly and in circumstances scarcely imaginable here violated their language code; their own moral pride compelled them to relegate him to the status of outcast, unfit to exercise moral leadership in our community.  I don’t think my perception is entirely distorted when I notice a Leninist streak in the American liberal arts left.

James Tengatenga is a decent man. Its a shame.

But as for the journalism … Kudos to the Boston Globe for making a difficult story coherent. Well done.

First printed in Get Religion.

Tengatenga under fire for gay flip flop: The Church of England Newspaper, July 28, 2013, p 6. July 31, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Consultative Council, Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Central Africa, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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James Tengatenga

The chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council, the Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga, has repudiated his opposition to same-sex marriage, telling an American college newspaper the Bible’s call to treat all people with respect outweighed its condemnation of homosexual acts as sin.

On 19 July 2013 The Dartmouth quoted Dr. Tengatenga as saying his views on homosexuality had evolved in recent years. “The interpretation of the Bible is not based on one person or one denomination,” the Dartmouth quoted him as saying.

“What is important is what the scriptures say about the value of a human being. It says they are all equal. One must place more value on this than on the few negative scriptures that are in the Bible,” the bishop said.

Last week The Church of England Newspaper reported Dr. Tengatenga had stood down as Bishop of Southern Malawi to take up the post of Dean of the William Jewett Tucker Foundation at Dartmouth College on 1 January 2014.  As dean, Dr. Tengatenga will oversee the college’s chaplaincy programs.

However gay activists at Dartmouth, joined by the college chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) denounced the bishop’s appointment. They cited statements made by Dr Tengatenga in support of the church’s traditional teaching on sexuality published in The Church of England Newspaper in objecting to his appointment.

Members of the Dartmouth search committee told the college newspaper Dr. Tengatenga did not believe the things that he said but was merely mouthing the sentiments of the Church of the Province of Central Africa.  Search Committee chairman Professor Irene Kacandes said the bishop’s statements had been taken out of context and expressed his church’s views, not his personal beliefs.

However, the bishop’s climb down may have come too late for some members of Dartmouth’s faculty. Adrienne Clay, African and African-American studies department program coordinator told The Dartmouth,“Although Tengatenga’s new statement strikes some encouraging notes, it seems very polished and a little too ambiguous for my taste.”

“How do we measure Tengatenga? By a statement directed to a college audience in the U.S. or by his words and actions, as well as inaction, over the past decade?”, she said.

Dr. Tengatenga did not respond to a request for clarification of his views. However the Anglican Consultative Council’s press office last week said the bishop was under no obligation to step down as ACC chairman following his resignation as Bishop of Southern Malawi.

ACC chairman steps down as bishop of Southern Malawi: The Church of England Newspaper, July 21, 2013 p 6. July 23, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Consultative Council, Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Central Africa.
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The chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council, the Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga has resigned as Bishop of Southern Malawi to accept a lectureship at Dartmouth College in the United States.

On 10 July the Nyasa Times reported Dr. Tengatenga, the senior bishop of the Province of Central  Africa, would take up a university post in the United States and will relinquish his leadership of several Malawian civil society groups including the National AIDS Commission, Malawi Council of Churches and the Public Affairs Council (PAC).

On 11 July 2013 Dr. Tengatenga told The Church of England Newspaper he had “given notice of resignation to my archbishop. It is just unfortunate that the news got out this way. Yesterday I was giving a heads up to my core leadership so that they do not get surprised when the archbishop sends the news.”

Dr. Tengatenga stated it was unfortunate an unnamed source at the provincial office in Zambia had leaked the information to the press.  The desire to be “the first to give this news to the newspaper” did not reflect well on the leaker.

He further noted the “college has not yet made the official announcement and I do not yet have the visas” for a move to America and “as such it is premature and it is what it is.”

Dr. Tengatenga will take up the post of Dean of the William Jewett Tucker Foundation at Dartmouth College on 1 January 2014.

Dr. Tengatenga stated he was not sure how his resignation from his bishopric would affect his leadership of the ACC.  While clergy members of the ACC must step down upon retirement, Dr. Tengatenga is the elected chairman and not a delegate from Central Africa. It is “up to the ACC to tell me what they think is proper once I make the official announcement. As far as I am aware I am not expected to step down until my term is over but I may be wrong. The legal adviser will let me know in due course,” he said.