The New Brunswick [N.J.] Theological Seminary has ousted its president and reprimanded him for officiating at his lesbian daughter's wedding. The Reverend Norman Kansfield, 64, performed the ceremony in Massachusetts, which last year became the first state to sanction same-sex marriages. He could face a church trial later this year.
In a letter sent shortly before the June 19 wedding, Kansfield informed the board of his decision to officiate, adding that he wasn't seeking its permission. His daughter, Anne, married her partner, Jennifer Aull. The board voted January 28 not to renew Kansfield's contract. "We decided that the president had put the seminary in an awkward position by performing that ceremony without giving us the benefit of offering sufficient counsel," the Reverend Larry Williams Sr., a board member, told The [Newark] Star-Ledger in a story published Friday. "It could have hurt the school if it divided people in our student body, if it divided our faculty, if it divided other people who support us."
Kansfield said he had not done anything to hurt his denomination, the Reformed Church of America. "People presume I have been on a crusade," he said. "In point of fact, I'm a conservative theologian. I would not do anything that goes against the church."
The Reformed Church's roots date to Dutch settlers who arrived in America 400 years ago. It is one of the more conservative denominations in the National Council of Churches. Unlike its fellow Protestant churches--such as the Episcopali and Methodist denominations--the church has not had high-profile controversies concerning gay issues.
But the denomination's national office in Grand Rapids, Mich., said formal complaints have been filed against Kansfield, who expects to be brought up on charges in June at the church's General Synod.
He said on Friday the most likely punishment would be losing his designation as professor of theology, one of only 12 in the nation. But he also could be stripped of his pastoral ministry or be removed from the church altogether, possibilities he deemed remote.
Kansfield said a trial would be the highest-profile proceeding in the church since 1962, when a seminary professor questioned whether the first parts of Genesis should be taken literally. (AP)