[by Dean Smith] If there was anyone I would have written off as an impossible case for conversion, it was Dr Rosaria Champagne Butterfield.
She was a left-winger, lesbian, atheist and an English professor at Syracuse University. In my world, three strikes and you are out. But thankfully, a reformed Syracuse Presbyterian pastor and his wife, Ken and Floy Smith, had more faith than I did.
In her testimonial, “My Train Wreck Conversion,” on Christianity Today, Rosaria tells how God chased her down.
One of my favorite lines from her article is: “As a leftist lesbian professor, I despised Christians. Then somehow I became one.”
As a professor she had disdain for any Christian students in her class.
Dr. Butterfield said of them and their faith:
“Stupid. Pointless. Menacing. That is what I thought of Christians and their god Jesus.”
But that all changed in 1977, when she wrote an article in a local newspaper about Promise Keepers. Rosaria even cited some Bible verses in her article. She received the usual letters applauding her views and those attacking her opinions. She was used to the attacks having seen the placards of Christians warning of her final destination when she participated in gay-pride parades.
But one letter from Pastor Ken Smith was different. He didn’t attack, but instead asked Rosaria how she arrived at her conclusions and if she believed it was right.
This letter though annoying got her thinking. After first digging Ken’s letter out of the recycling bin, she eventually responded to him.
Over the next two years, Rosaria became friends with Ken and his wife.
Something else happened. Ken and his wife, Floy, and I became friends. They entered my world. They met my friends. We did book exchanges. We talked openly about sexuality and politics. They did not act as if such conversations were polluting them. They did not treat me like a blank slate. When we ate together, Ken prayed in a way I had never heard before. His prayers were intimate. Vulnerable. He repented of his sin in front of me. He thanked God for all things. Ken’s God was holy and firm, yet full of mercy.
She began to read the Bible, multiple versions. In her own words she devoured it.
Her friends were starting to notice the change. A transgendered friend, who she referred to only as “J”, told Rosaria the Bible was changing her. Rosaria replied, “What if it is true. What if Jesus is real and risen. What if we are all in trouble.”
Then one Sunday morning she ended up in church. Rosaria writes:
I rose from the bed of my lesbian lover, and an hour later sat in a pew at the Syracuse Reformed Presbyterian Church. Conspicuous with my butch haircut, I reminded myself that I came to meet God, not fit in. The image that came in like waves, of me and everyone I loved suffering in hell, vomited into my consciousness and gripped me in its teeth.
Rosaria said she finally had to come to grips with what the Bible said about homosexuality. Repented. And today she is a pastor’s wife.
But despite her conversion, she is still oddly experiencing Christian protests. In January 2014, she was speaking at the chapel of Wheaton College, a Chicago-based Christian liberal arts college. Despite being Evangelical, about 30 Wheaton students, with placards, protested Rosaria’s address at Edman Chapel.
Some placards read “I’m gay and a beloved child of God” and “I am loved by God now.”
The students opposed Rosaria’s message that someone could leave the lifestyle. Two of the protest leaders expressed concern about Dr Butterfield’s message that only repentance and turning away from their lifestyle was the answer.
She later met with the group. Dr Butterfield disagreed with their belief homosexuality was permanent.
Commenting on the protest, Rosaria wrote at The Gospel Coalition: “homosexuality is a sin, but so is homophobia.”
She added that we don’t resolve homosexuality by turning people into heterosexuals, but rather by repentance. She said:
“Repentance and victory over sin are God’s gifts and failing to remember that sons and daughters of the King can be full members of Christ’s body and still struggle with sexual temptation.”
- My Train Wreck Conversion: Christianity Today
- Wheaton Students Protest ‘Train Wreck Conversion’ Speaker’s Ex-Gay Testimony: Christianity Today