Durham, North Carolina — A former lesbian is sharing her testimony with the world about how God opened her eyes to the truth of the Gospel and set her free from the chains of sin and unbelief.
Nearly 15 years ago, Rosaria Champagne Butterfield served as an English professor at Syracuse University in Upstate New York. She wanted nothing to do with Christianity and thought that it was damaging to society. Butterfield, a radical feminist, was also involved in a lesbian relationship, and lived with her partner, who was active in charitable work.
“My partner and I shared many vital interests: AIDS activism, children’s health and literacy, Golden Retriever rescue, our Unitarian Universalist church, to name a few,” she wrote in a recent article published by Christianity Today. “[I]t was hard to argue that my partner and I were anything but good citizens and caregivers.”
However, in 1997, Butterfield decided to research why Christians were opposed to homosexuality. She began looking into the Bible, and in the meantime, submitted an article to her local newspaper refuting the Christian organization Promise Keepers, which serves to help men have strong marriages and families.
“The article generated many rejoinders, so many that I kept a Xerox box on each side of my desk: one for hate mail, one for fan mail,” Butterfield recounted. “But one letter I received defied my filing system.”
The letter was from a Presbyterian minister in Syracuse named Ken Smith, who asked her why she believed the way she did, and how she knew that she was right. Although Butterfield threw the correspondence away, deciding not to respond, she later fished it out of the recycling bin and put it back on her desk. Butterfield states that the pastor’s words tugged at her heart and conscience for a week.
“I had seen my share of Bible verses on placards at gay pride marches. That Christians who mocked me on Gay Pride Day were happy that I and everyone I loved was going to Hell was clear as blue sky. That is not what Ken did. He did not mock. He engaged,” she explained. “So when his letter invited me to get together for dinner, I accepted.”
Butterfield then became friends with Smith and his wife, and began to take a genuine interest in the Scriptures.
“I tried to toss the Bible and all of its teachings in the trash — I really tried,” she said, noting that at about the fourth pass through, something gripped her. “[T]he Bible got to be bigger inside me than I. It overflowed into my world.”
Later, Butterfield felt compelled to attend services at Smith’s church.
“I fought with everything I had,” she admitted, explaining her mindset as she sat in the pews. “I did not want this. I did not ask for this. I counted the costs. And I did not like the math on the other side of the equal sign.”
But Smith’s sermon on understanding the will of God struck her powerfully.
“I wrestled with the question: Did I really want to understand homosexuality from God’s point of view, or did I just want to argue with Him?” Butterfield recalled. “I prayed that night that God would give me the willingness to obey before I understood.”
And one day, she gave up fighting against God. She came to Christ on His terms instead of her own, and let Him have everything.
“I was a broken mess,” Butterfield said. “Conversion was a train wreck.”
Today, Butterfield is married to a pastor, is a homemaker and a mother of four. She is also the author of The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.
“Conversion put me in a complicated and comprehensive chaos. I sometimes wonder, when I hear other Christians pray for the salvation of the ‘lost,’ if they realize that this comprehensive chaos is the desired end of such prayers,” she writes in a description of her book. “Often, people asked me to describe the lessons that I learned from this experience. I can’t. It was too traumatic. Sometimes in crisis, we don’t really learn lessons. Sometimes the result is simpler and more profound: sometimes our character is simply transformed.”