by Meredith Flynn, Illinois Baptist State Association
Columbus, Ohio — The most personal testimony shared publicly during the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention in Columbus, Ohio, came from a source most Baptists probably had never heard of prior to the meeting.
Rosaria Butterfield participated in a panel discussion Wednesday afternoon with some very familiar faces—men that have been instrumental in calling Baptists to a deeper reliance on the gospel when it comes to understanding how it intersects with cultural issues.
When it was her turn to speak, she delivered the truth, plain and simple:
“I often tell people I was not converted out of homosexuality,” said Butterfield, a former lesbian. “I was converted out of unbelief. And then the Lord started working on some other stuff.”
One reporter in the press room later commented they were glad Butterfield had been in Columbus, so that more people could hear her story. Her past and, in a different way, her present—her husband pastors a Reformed Presbyterian Church—set her apart from her audience in Columbus. But as she nodded encouragingly as the other panelists talked, and when she delivered the short version of her testimony with an almost-constant smile, the value of hearing from a new voice at the Southern Baptist Convention was clear.
As a professor at Syracuse University, Butterfield said she had finished the book she needed to write to achieve tenure and turned her attention to what she really wanted to write: “a critique of the religious right from a lesbian feminist point of view.”
In the process, she met a Christian pastor and his wife who invited her into their home (and visited hers) and truly befriended her. At first, “I thought I simply got free research assistants,” Butterfield told the audience in Columbus.