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Scapegoating James Tengatenga

By George Conger, Get Religion

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Dartmouth College has rescinded the appointment of a prominent African bishop as dean of a campus institution that focuses on furthering the moral and spiritual work of the school because of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?”
 
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