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A Former Lesbian Transformed by Christian Hospitality

At the age of 36, Rosaria Champagne Butterfield was a recently tenured professor in the Center for Women's Study at Syracuse University. Rosaria and her lesbian partner were members of a Unitarian Universalist Church, where Rosaria was the coordinator of what is called the Welcoming Committee, the gay and lesbian advocacy group.

Up to this point in her life, Rosaria said that the only Christians she knew were "intellectually impaired." They were the kind of "people who sent me hate mail; or people who carried signs at gay pride marches that read 'God Hates Fags.'" But her negative image of Christians would radically change when she met a local pastor named Ken and his wife Floy. Eventually that friendship led to her conversion to Christ, but here's how Rosaria described that first encounter with authentic Christians:

I remember being conscious of my butch haircut and the gay and pro-choice bumper stickers on my car …. I remember awkwardly greeting my hosts at the door and pulling out of my bag two gifts—a bottle of good red wine and a box of strong tea …. I wanted to get to know these people but not at the expense of compromising my moral standards. My lesbian identity and culture and its values mattered a lot to me. I came to my culture and its values through life experience but also through much research and deep thinking. I liked Ken and Floy immediately because they seemed sensitive to that ….
During our meal I remember holding my breath and waiting to be punched in the stomach with something grossly offensive. I believed at this time that God was dead and that if he ever was alive, the fact of poverty, violence, racism, sexism, homophobia, and war was proof that he didn't care about his creation. I believed that religion was, as Marx wrote, the opiate of the masses …. But Ken's God seemed alive, three-dimensional and wise, if firm. And Ken and Floy were anything but intellectually impaired.
Ken and Floy did something at the meal that has a long Christian history ….. [They] invited the stranger in—not to scapegoat me, but to listen and to learn and to dialogue …. We didn't debate worldview …. They were willing to walk the long journey to me in Christian compassion. During our meal, they did not share the gospel with me. After our meal, they did not invite me to church. Because of these glaring omissions to the Christian script as I had come to know it, when the evening ended and Pastor Ken said he wanted to stay in touch, I knew that it was truly safe to accept his open hand.
Since this beginning, the journey on which the Lord has taken me has been a great adventure, and this simple meal in a pastor's home … was the first leg of this journey. Before I ever stepped foot in a church, I spent two years meeting with Ken and Floy and on and off "studying' scripture and my heart …. [Ken] knew at the time that I couldn't come to church—it would have been too threatening, too weird, too much. So, Ken was willing to bring the church to me.

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