Brunswick Theological Seminary President Takes Early Leave After Lesbian Marriage Controversy

The president of an Reformed Church-affiliated Seminary left his position three months early partly because of his involvement with a gay wedding ceremony last year.

The Rev. Norman Kansfield, 64, officially ended his services to the Brunswick Theological seminary on March 28 -- three months ahead of his scheduled leave.

Kansfield, was asked to leave in February after performing the wedding ceremony of his daughter and another woman in Massachusetts last June, according to the Associated Press (AP).

The board of Trustees voted on Jan. 28 not to renew Kansfield's contract for the next academic year and in early March Kansfield was informed that he must leave the day after Easter.

"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 board member.

"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," Williams said.

But the early resignation was not a "firing", according to comments made by a trustee member to the Ledger Online, and was unrelated to Kansfield's role in the controversial ceremony.

The Reformed Church in America'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 Episcopalians and Methodists - the church has not had high-profile controversies over homosexuality.

Kansfield, having said he has had close gay friends since high school and his early days as a minister in Queens, said he had not done anything to hurt his denomination.

"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."

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.

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.