As was reported recently, Bishop James Tengatenga of Southern Malawi, chair of the Anglican Consultative Council, is stepping down from his episcopacy to become dean of a foundation at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. He has issued a statement to the Dartmouth community in which he addresses his views on marriage and human rights. An excerpt:
As is the case with many people, my ideas about homosexuality have evolved over time. I’m not ashamed to say that, but I also think I’m not alone, and I think it’s important to have some historical context. The changing attitudes on this matter, especially in the United States, have been staggering. The 2003 consecration of V. Gene Robinson as Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire represented an extraordinary gift because it forced people—from parishioners to bishops to people outside the church—to think carefully and critically about the issue of homosexuality and gay rights. As a result, many of us came to very different understandings of the faith and the gospel.
So, let me be clear. I support marriage equality and equal rights for everyone, and I look forward to working with everyone at Dartmouth—everyone. I believe that discrimination of any kind is sinful. When I say that I am committed to the human rights of all, I mean all.
As chair of the ACC, it has been my responsibility, together with other members of the ACC, to mediate and hold the church together. We have instituted processes of reconciliation between the divergent parties in the church. Those who have not wanted reconciliation over gay issues have left the church, while others have chosen to remain. We have facilitated dialogues all over the world between dioceses and bishops with opposing views from Europe, Africa, Canada, and elsewhere. I am actively engaged in the Canadian, United States, and African discussions, not only as chair of the ACC but also as an individual. This has come at great cost from both sides of the divide.
Mediators, however, often find themselves in the crossfire. I have tried very hard to represent Africa to the West, especially to the Episcopal Church, and the West to my African colleagues.
Courageous moral leadership is what this is about, and that is what I find attractive about Dartmouth. I was born in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) and so I know firsthand about racial discrimination, and in fact my move to Malawi (even though I am of Malawi descent) was due to racial tensions. At age 19, I was serving a sentence for standing against the Rhodesian government. I know what it is to be a second-class citizen in the country of your birth, someone without rights. This experience also helps me appreciate the plight of LGBTQ people. I have been followed in supermarkets in the United States simply because of my skin color, so I understand something about prejudice. If a commitment to diversity is part of what the Tucker Foundation is about—and I believe it is—I have lived it and fought for it.
The Dartmouth reports on opposition on campus to the appointment.
Meanwhile, the primate of Nigeria has given a fresh angy interview on the Anglican Communion. Video here.