*Views expressed in the testimony provided are expressive of the individual’s own beliefs and reasoning, and are not necessarily held by James Bishop.
Butterfield earned her PhD from Ohio State University in English Literature. She served in the English Department and Women Studies Program at Syracuse University from 1992 to 2002, and during her academic career, she published a book as well as many articles (1). Much of her work was on feminist theory, queer theory, and 19th century British literature. Butterfield was also in a committed homosexual relationship as well as served as the faculty advisor for a number of gay and lesbian student groups on campus (2).
However, quite remarkably, she had what she refers to as a “train-wreck conversion” (3). She came to believe in Jesus and, as a result, committed to a life of “holy sexuality” which meant a commitment to either heterosexual marriage or celibacy. Butterfield is now married to a Presbyterian pastor in North Carolina where she is “living out the means of grace.” She is raising four children, and sharing the testimony of God’s love at churches, colleges, and universities around the world in the midst of one of the most controversial topics in church and culture today.
Butterfield has developed a ministry that focuses on college students, and thus frequently speaks in churches and universities about her experiences (4). This has been the basis of some controversy as during one of her presentations nine students in the front row stood up silently, took off their jackets, turned their backs to Butterfield, and linked arms in front of a packed Oval Theater guarded by two University Police officers and two security officers. The disagreement and opposition to Butterfield’s message was quite obvious as their shirts read “Rosario Butterfield does not speak for us.” The students stood like that for the few hours that Butterfield’s presentation lasted for. However, it would appear that this had not deterred Butterfield for she not only completed her presentation but also continues her efforts today. Butterfield says that she
“came to Christ in 1999. I broke up with my lesbian partner because I was convicted of my sin, but my heart was a mess. I never called my partner my wife because I had rejected all things “heteronormative.” I —and others of my generation—dismissed the idea that we were “born this way.” Instead, I believed that my lesbian sexuality was a cleaner and more moral choice.”
However, prior to her conversion Butterfield had a low view of Christians and intensely disliked what Jesus stood for,
“As a leftist lesbian professor, I despised Christians… The word Jesus stuck in my throat like an elephant tusk; no matter how hard I choked, I couldn’t hack it out. Those who professed the name commanded my pity and wrath. As a university professor, I tired of students who seemed to believe that “knowing Jesus” meant knowing little else. Christians in particular were bad readers, always seizing opportunities to insert a Bible verse into a conversation with the same point as a punctuation mark: to end it rather than deepen it. Stupid. Pointless. Menacing. That’s what I thought of Christians and their god Jesus.”
While she was an atheist, Butterfield remembers receiving a great deal of hate and fan mail (5). She discovered one letter that she couldn’t quite classify, and it was this letter that started her on her journey to Jesus and the Christian faith. She says that it was “from the pastor of the Syracuse Reformed Presbyterian Church. It was a kind and inquiring letter.” His name was Ken Smith and he gently encouraged her to “explore the kind of questions” that shed admired. These were thought provoking questions such as “How did you arrive at your interpretations? How do you know you are right? Do you believe in God? Ken didn’t argue with my article; rather, he asked me to defend the presuppositions that undergirded it. I didn’t know how to respond to it, so I threw it away.”
Nonetheless, despite disposing of the letter, these questions penetrated deep into her heart and soul and, as a result, her subsequent transformation because of it was nothing short of phenomenal. She was essentially transformed from someone who couldn’t say the name of Jesus to someone who not only believes in him but also worships him as her saviour. Moreover, Butterfield was transformed from a woman who berated Christians and what they stood for to an individual who not only became a Christian herself but also loved them as her own family. Butterfield also transitioned from being in a homosexual relationship to becoming the wife of a pastor as well as a mother of four.
However, as is the case for many who undergo major transitions in their lives, change is often expensive and far from easy, “When I came to Christ,” says Butterfield, “it had a horrible, mangling impact on my gay and lesbian community.” (6). These challenges have motivated her to write her own book, “I wrote this book called ‘The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert’ but I probably should have written a book titled ‘What My Conversion Cost Other People.'”
In her interview with the Christian Post, Butterfield admits that she “wished it [her exodus from the LGBT community] could have” occurred differently, but remains thankful to the God she now believes in for his being “gracious” her weakness (7). Today Butterfield’s mission is clear, “I do believe that God’s elect people are in all communities and because I believe that, I believe that we Christians need to be with them to claim the people that God has already set apart. So I am hopeful, but God has protected me because I am also weak.”
1. Desiring God. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. Available.
2. Today’s Christian Women. From Lesbian Professor to Pastor’s Wife. Available.
3. Butterfield, R. 2013. My Train Wreck Conversion. Available.
4. Burk, D. 2013. Rosaria Butterfield is fighting the good fight. Available.
5. Proslogion. 2014. Another Atheist-Turned-Christian. Available.
6. Gryboski, M. 2013. Former Lesbian Professor Says Leaving LGBT Community Had ‘Horrible, Mangling Impact.’ Available.
7. Gryboski, M. 2013. Ibid.