Letter: A Man Without a Pulpit
To the Editor:
The Aug. 16 Valley News headline “College Cuts Ties With Bishop over Homosexuality Comments” might have read, “Dartmouth NAACP Leads in Dismissing a Black African Man Because of His Religion.”
According to the more vocal opponents of the Bishop James Tengatenga’s appointment to head the Tucker Foundation at Dartmouth, the Anglican Church’s views on sodomy render the bishop incapable of possessing adequate moral credentials. It seems an unjust conclusion. Having spent the last 11 years working and spending time in Malawi, I can attest that the bishop has worked in a cultural and political environment that makes support for gay rights not only difficult, but also dangerous. Within the Anglican Church, Tengatenga has been a voice of moderation, opposing anti-homosexuality laws and winning over those Africans who would have broken with the more progressive branches of Christianity in North America and Europe.
Tengatenga is not a dogmatic reactionary, but a progressive reformer who understands that change in African religious institutions comes through persistent persuasion that must also influence the deeply held cultural beliefs of African societies. In accepting the Tucker Foundation position, he demonstrated that his own views have evolved. The bishop resigned his position to separate himself from the church to accept the new role at Dartmouth. But now, he is a man without a pulpit, due to Dartmouth’s breach of contract. This legal breach and cultural insensitivity has outraged many African human rights advocates who see Dartmouth’s action as denying one of their own a safe platform from which to amplify their concerns about the entire range of injustices in Africa, not only about sexual preferences. A good man, doing good works in a very difficult and dangerous environment has been unjustly condemned and harmed because of his religion, his culture and the complexities of the place he lives. It is said that the Tucker Foundation “is charged with supporting and furthering the moral and spiritual work of the college.” If Tucker is to serve as a moral compass for Dartmouth, based on this decision, the compass is missing a needle.