Seminary President Ousted for Performing Daughter’s Gay Wedding
The New Brunswick Theological Seminary has ousted its president and reprimanded him for officiating at his gay daughter’s wedding. The school’s board of trustees said the Rev. Norman Kansfield, 64, performed the ceremony in Massachusetts. “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 Rev. Larry Williams Sr., a member speaking on the board’s behalf, told The Star-Ledger of Newark for Friday’s newspapers. “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.” In a letter sent shortly before the June 19 wedding of his daughter, Anne, Kansfield informed the board of his decision to officiate, and said he wasn’t seeking its permission. The board voted Jan. 28 not to renew Kansfield’s contract.
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 mainline Protestant churches — such as Episcopalians and Methodists –the church has not had high-profile controversies over gay rights. 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 in Schenectady, N.Y.
A New Jersey gay rights group blasted the action as “sickening and completely out of step” with the attitudes of many New Jerseyans.
Andrew Sullivan (who has apparently abandoned his book project, as he’s blogging as much as ever) is somehow shocked by this. (Glenn Reynolds, though, is amused by Sully’s formulation of the headline.)
The Reformed Church may well be “completely out of step” with the population at large. Of course, a theological seminary doesn’t operate based on majority rule. A church, let alone its training institutes, is not in the business of popularity but of promulgating a set of values. Kansfield claims, “I would not do anything that goes against the church.” That’s obviously untrue. To the extent that his love for his daughter overrides the values that he was supposed to be teaching, I can hardly fault him. But nor can I fault the seminary from firing him.
If Richard Myers converted this morning to the Quaker faith and decided that he could no longer countenance war, I would wish him well. I would, however, expect him to be forthwith ousted as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs were he not to resign.