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Listening: Southern Malawi bishop acknowledges partnership

By Matthew Davies
[Episcopal News Service]  Bishop James Tengatenga of Southern Malawi, and his wife Jocelyn, visited New York last week to build on a "partners in mission" (PIM) relationship between the Central Africa diocese and St. James' Episcopal Church in Manhattan.
While meeting with staff at the Episcopal Church Center on May 3, Tengatenga conveyed his gratitude for all that the Episcopal Church has done in supporting his diocese in recent years, noting in particular the relationship with St. James' and Episcopal Relief and Development's assistance in purchasing relief supplies for areas affected by famine.
Malawi is one of the world's least-developed countries and major challenges include increasing corruption, population growth, the spread of HIV/AIDS and the recent food crisis.
The PIM relationship encourages St. James' parishioners to work alongside Anglicans in the Diocese of Southern Malawi to create projects "which will better sustain the Africans' physical lives and help all those involved grow spiritually," the parish website states. [Further information can be obtained from the Rev. Steve Smith, associate rector, at 212.774.4234 or email
Consecrated bishop in 1998, Tengatenga holds an M.Div. degree and a Doctor of Divinity (honoris causa) from the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas.
He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Malawi where his doctoral dissertation focused on the relationship between church, state, and society through an analysis of Anglican ecclesiology in Malawi.
Since 2002, he has been a member of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), the Anglican Communion's most representative body.
Tengatenga was a visiting professor during the 2004 Michaelmas Term at the General Theological Seminary, teaching a course titled "The Church and Society in Africa."
Difference in Communion
Despite differences of opinion between the Central African province and the Episcopal Church over issues of human sexuality, "we still feel very much a part of the Communion," Tengatenga told Episcopal News Service. "To be present to one other does not necessarily mean we agree and it's very important that we are present."
He explained that amid such tensions a generosity is required -- "the generosity to listen and the generosity to hear the cries of those parts of the church that say America is moving too fast," he said.
The Listening Process, which encourages mutual listening throughout the Anglican provinces, especially to the experiences of homosexual persons, is particularly important, he said, but "one would have wished for it to have happened earlier."
There needs to be a way of avoiding schism in the Anglican Communion, Tengatenga underscored, while acknowledging that unity for its own sake is problematic. "It should be for God's sake," he said. "The challenge is how you deal with all the difference that we face. Certainly we should not encourage unity at all costs, but we should strive for unity with God's help and God in his wisdom can empower us."
In the Episcopal Church's response to the Windsor Report, a document that makes recommendations about how to maintain the highest degree of communion possible amid difference, Tengatenga underscores the importance of an unequivocal expression of regret, as well as a commitment to the listening process.
Empowering women
Jocelyn Tengatenga, schools and colleges chaplain for the Diocese of Southern Malawi, has been an active member of the Anglican delegation at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) for the past two years. She described her experiences of the Episcopal Church as educational and her involvement with the UNCSW as uplifting.
Forty percent of healthcare in Malawi is provided by the church and adult literacy programs are being run by the Mothers' Union. However, there are very few women in leadership roles and the province does not currently ordain women to the priesthood.
"Teachings of the church promote male dominancy, and social attitudes are so entrenched in the Malawian culture that discrimination has contributed to the marginalization of women," she said during the UNCSW meeting. "We are trying to change the teachings and help women to participate in full ministry. If we train the younger generation they will grow up with that knowledge and take up leadership roles in the future."
Donations to ERD's Africa Relief Fund can be made at, or by calling 1.800.334.7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief and Development, Africa Relief Fund, PO Box 12043, Newark, NJ 07101.