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Tengatenga Responds

As Phil Hanlon noted in his message announcing the withdrawal of Malawian Bishop James Tengatenga’s Tucker Foundation appointment, the Bishop came to Hanover to talk with Phil. When I asked Bishop Tengatenga about his visit and his reaction to the College’s decision, he sent me the following response:

Tengatenga Response1.jpg

I find it curious that President Hanlon did not invite students to meet with Bishop Tengatenga in the course of his visit. Perhaps several face-to-face meetings would have shown students another side of the man. Malawi to Hanover is a long way to come for just one meeting in Parkhurst.

Addendum: A senior member of the faculty writes in with an observation:

Your comment about President Hanlon’s handling of the Tengatenga matter [“I find it curious that President Hanlon did not invite students to meet with Bishop Tengatenga in the course of his visit. Perhaps several face-to-face meetings would have shown students another side of the man. Malawi to Hanover is a long way to come for just one meeting in Parkhurst.”] seems really odd.

This was not a student decision. That’s how Jim Kim would have handled it: bring in a group of students, let the candidate charm them, and then go back to business as usual. A good way of avoiding a hard decision while appearing student-friendly. If the students went the other way, blame the decision on them.

This decision had to be made by a knowledgeable professional with years of administrative experience. After much consultation, including a personal meeting with the Bishop, it had to be made alone by one person. Phil Hanlon got this just right. Don’t confuse the issue.

P.S. Perhaps the Bishop should sit down with his Bible:

“But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Mt 5:39).

Addendum: As does an alumnus who closely follows the affairs of the College:

You say, “I find it curious that President Hanlon did not invite students to meet with Bishop Tengatenga in the course of his visit. Perhaps several face-to-face meetings would have shown students another side of the man. Malawi to Hanover is a long way to come for just one meeting in Parkhurst.”

Not so sure about that. Phil had to be “the decider” here, and he had done his homework. Meeting in-person was the culmination, but the issue for the present was in fact the past, and no popular judgement of a convenience sample of August-in-Hanover students (new sophomores, presumably) would have changed that. Could have complicated it, certainly, but would not have changed it.

Sure, the fault here was proximately the committee’s. But it was ultimately the Bishop’s. He should have known that his aggressively offensive past public positions needed full disclosure by him in advance; they needed to be part of his own story, and that story could have been compelling. Instead, he plied the committee with environmentalism. And when his past came into view, either he lied or he conceded — implicitly only — that he had lied previously. He did not say anything like the following: “Yes, I was a bishop loyal to the doctrine of my church. But more than loyal. That doctrine was my doctrine. I believed it then. I helped shape it then. But I was wrong to do so. Coming to know this has been an epiphany for me, and it’s an epiphany I must urgently share. Maybe I will do that someday again as an Anglican parish priest in Malawi, but I will do it first as a dean in New Hampshire, in whose Episcopal church I hope soon to receive communion from a courageous and forgiving bishop whom I once vilified.” We heard nothing of the sort.

And then, in his response to your e-mail, Tengatenga played the race card! Against the NAACP. (Hello!)

Well done, Phil. Lots more to do.

I stand corrected.

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