Anglican leader James Tengatenga, free to speak, opens up on homophobia

Published: March 14, 2014

 PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – “Hi, my name is James.” He looks like your typical tourist in the desert oasis that is Palm Springs, Calif., wearing white walking shorts and a casual shirt in a green-and-white plaid. No socks, no belt. No pretense. He flashes a friendly smile and extends his right hand, giving a warm welcome to a stranger he only knows from the Internet. 

But James Tengatenga is not an ordinary man. He is man of God, the former Anglican Bishop of Southern Malawi who gave up a comfortable life in Africa to take a prestigious post at Dartmouth University but only to see his job yanked away from him after a group of protesters headed by the Dartmouth NAACP accused him of homophobia. Never mind that numerous people, gay and straight, rushed to Tengatenga’s defense, but to no avail. This is the same Tengatenga who last Sunday gave the blessing at the 60th birthday party for the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, an openly gay Episcopal priest who is known around the world for his activism on behalf of LGBT people who are persecuted in 80 countries, including Malawi. This is the same Tengatenga who networked with LGBT leaders and their straight allies at an informal gathering in Palm Springs, and the same Tengatenga who gave an unprecedented two-hour interview with this LGBT media organization – his first major interview since the controversy erupted last summer. That sounds real homophobic, doesn’t it?

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