Dartmouth College has rescinded the offer made to Dr. James Tengatenga, the Anglican Bishop of Malawi, to head the Tucker Foundation after his past comments regarding homosexuality came to light and caused some deep discomfort for the college’s president, Philip Hanlon.
In a statement released recently, Dr. Hanlon states that “following much reflection and consultation with senior leaders at Dartmouth, it has become clear to me that Dr. Tengatenga’s past comments about homosexuality and the uncertainty and controversy they created have compromised his ability to serve effectively as dean of Tucker.”
He went on to say that “The foundation and Dartmouth’s commitment to inclusion are too important to be mired in discord over this appointment. Consequently, we have decided not to move forward with the appointment of Dr. Tengatenga as dean of the Tucker Foundation.”
Dr. Hanlon did talk to Dr. Tengatenga about his past views on homosexuality, and discussed his role in the leadership of the Anglican Church in Africa. The Anglican Church in Africa has been one of the principle proponents of further repression when it comes to LGBT people.
According to Hanlon, “Dr. Tengatenga spoke to me about his inspiring life of service to some of the world’s most vulnerable people, especially victims of HIV-AIDS. In passionate terms, he described his commitment to gay rights and how he has worked to support the LGBTQ community in Malawi in the ways that are most effective, given the country’s cultural context.”
Rather than appoint a new leader to the Tucker Foundation, Dr. Hanlon has called for Interim Provost Martin Wybourne to “develop plans for interim leadership at Tucker and to convene a task force charged with making recommendations as to the foundation’s mission and organizational structure.”
For his part, Dr. Tengatenga was not happy about having the offer rescinded. After it was made, he resigned his post as the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Southern Malawi and declared that he supports marriage equality. This was a big risk given that homosexuality is illegal in Malawi.
Unfortunately, his sudden about face was not enough; however, rather than atoning for his past statements, Dr. Tengatenga stated that “All I can say is that history now has it on record that truth and justice lost and bigotry won and that the Dartmouth NAACP led in the defamation of an honorable black man.”
The NAACP wrote in a letter about the appointment that there were too many questions remaining regarding Tengatenga’s sudden about face on the issue of homosexuality and that “Merely stating support for equality is insufficient. Dartmouth’s new spiritual spokesperson must be a vigorous advocate for the rights of all members of the Dartmouth community – in word and in deed. We are not yet confident that Bishop Tengatenga meets this most basic standard.”
The NAACP was not the only ones with questions. Dr. Tengatenga’s sudden and almost mercurial change of heart raised eyebrows and made many people question whether or not he truly had changed positions.