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Saturday, January 3, 2009

An interesting story about two young pastors in Brooklyn

From the New York Times:
"Ann Kansfield — Pastor Ann, as she is known to some parishioners — has come up with a game to keep the children's attention during services at Greenpoint Reformed Church in Brooklyn. Calling the youngsters to the front of the church, where they sit on steps facing the congregation, she asks if any of them has an object that she can use in the sermon she will deliver to them.

One Sunday in March, a young parishioner produced a stuffed Winnie the Pooh, which Ms. Kansfield worked into the story of Noah's ark. Mission accomplished, she turned around and gave a big thumbs-up to the adults in the audience.

But Ms. Kansfield, 30, who has cropped hair, round glasses and a soothing manner, is no ordinary leader of a parish. She found herself at the center of a controversy after marrying her partner, Jennifer Aull, 32, in June 2004 in a ceremony in Northampton, Mass., in which her father, Norman Kansfield, officiated.

At the time, Dr. Kansfield was the president of the New Brunswick Theological Seminary and a minister of the Reformed Church of America. He was suspended as a minister and lost his post at the seminary after a jury of ministers from North America ruled that he violated his ordination vows and went against Reformed Church doctrine when he married the couple.

Ms. Kansfield, herself a graduate of the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, is not ordained, but she said she would have been had she not made a public issue of being a lesbian. "If nobody found out and I had kept quiet," she said, "they were going to ordain me in a matter of months."

After a divinity student receives an invitation from a parish to act as pastor, which is how Ms. Kansfield ended up at Greenpoint, the ordination process is administered by the classis, or local governing body of the church. "It could happen in a few months if there aren't any complications," said Jon Norton, executive minister of the Synod of New York, a governing body.

Asked whether Ms. Kansfield's openness about her relationship with her partner was keeping her from ordination, Mr. Norton said, "I think that's at the heart of why she hasn't been ordained yet." He emphasized that he was speaking as an individual, not as a representative of the church as a whole.

Ed note: Ms. Kanfield's father lost his job at Union for marrying his daughter and her spouse.

Ms. Kansfield and Ms. Aull, who is studying at Union Theological Seminary in Morningside Heights, live in a parsonage above the parish church. Since Ms. Kansfield took over in August 2003, membership has grown from around a dozen regular churchgoers to 50, a third of them children. "There is new blood in the community, and she is attracting this new blood, which is adding a new vibrancy," said Ann Akers, a psychoanalyst who was the church's part-time minister before Ms. Kansfield's arrival.

Ms. Kansfield tries not to dwell on what she calls the "brouhaha" surrounding her father's suspension. Her time is split between her pastoral work and her job as a writer for United Church Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides financial services to churches.

But she contends that being a member of a minority group is an advantage in her work. "It's a rare person who is in the majority nowadays," she said. "When people see me, they know they are welcome."


Auntie Knickers said...

Not sure if Ann Kansfield is a RGBP but I know she had a blog at one point, I was reading it during the aftermath of the wedding stuff. The RCA type of worship and theology (I'm assuming she adheres to the non-homophobic parts of them since they have a very rigourous ordination plan that she was passing with flying colors but for that one issue) may be a bit different for you but I think you should check out her church!

LittleMary said...

ann is a dear friend, a good soul, an excellent pastor. glad she continues to get press!

Ann said...

Hi there,
Thanks for posting a link to the NYT article. It was written by a journalism school student who was assigned to cover Greenpoint for one of his classes. He pitched the story to the Times and they published it - his first story to make it to the Times. The whole church was so happy for him!

If you're in NYC, please consider visiting our church. It's a really wonderful community. And we're actually looking for a new counselor for our counseling program. Feel free to contact me. My contact info can be found at

Oh, and I do have a blog, and am a part of the RevGals...I just haven't posted much since my son was born this summer. I've been busy just keeping my head above water.

mompriest said...


Barbara B. said...

It would be cool to check out that church -- let us know if you do!