After Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage in 2004, Norman Kansfield’s daughter asked him to perform her wedding ceremony.
Kansfield, a respected pastor, scholar and lifelong member of the Reformed Church in America, agreed to marry Ann and her long-time girlfriend. He informed the New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Jersey, where he served as president, of his plans.
“I had thought that there would be a request for my resignation,” Kansfield says. “Nobody did that.”
It was a June wedding.
Norman Kansfield and his wife, Mary, at their home in eastern Pennsylvania. Kansfield was put on trial by the Reformed Church after performing his daughter’s same-sex marriage.
“I’m a very emotional person, so I was quite pleased that I had not choked up or teared up throughout the service,” Kansfield says. “And then afterward, two women came to me and said that that was the first service in which they had felt genuinely part of church in years. They were a lesbian couple, and, at that point, I wept.”
The First Trial In Church History
Though no attempt was made to stop Kansfield from officiating his daughter’s wedding, the seminary’s board decided not to renew his contract the next year.
Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, who served as general secretary of the Reformed Church for 17 years before retiring in 2011, says Kansfield left the church no other option.
“Up to that point, it had kind of been don’t-ask-don’t-tell,” Granberg-Michaelson says. “It was clear that while this certainly was a father’s love for his daughter, it also was an intentional statement that Norm was trying to make.”