A former lesbian who's now a pastor's wife says the pastor who helped change her worldview would be accused of "hate speech" today.
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, a former tenured professor of English at Syracuse University, who has also taught and ministered at Geneva College, recalled her conversations with a pastor from decades ago in New York in an article for desiringGod.org last week.
Butterfield said that at the time, she held several conversations with her neighbor, Ken Smith, the then-pastor of the Syracuse Reformed Presbyterian Church, relating to truth and ethics.
"Twenty-two years ago, it was not considered hate speech for Ken to tell me that he accepted me as a lesbian, but did not approve. I rejected Ken's worldview, and he rejected mine. We were on even ground. We saw clearly our worldview differences, but those divisions, back then, did not come with the accusatory weight of personal attack. In today's playbook, that wouldn't fly," she writes.
Butterfield, now an author, mother, and pastor's wife, said that at the time, they debated weather truth determines what is ethical, or the other way around. She says that she used to believe that truth is a social construct, and that at the time she was in a committed relationship with another woman.
"I loved my girlfriend the way it felt best to me. I cared about my queer community. I co-authored the first domestic partnership policy at my university. I was poised to become a 'tenured radical' — a university professor with enough job security and hutzpah to take queer theory from the university to the street," she recalled.
The conversations she had with Smith and his wife were during weekly meals, sometimes at her house but mostly at theirs, where they continued discussing matters of life and faith despite disagreeing.
Butterfield went on to criticize social media, which she says is being used by people today to "mock or attempt to destroy each other," rather than allowing for deep face-to-face conversations.
"Ken and Floy and I became friends before this current cultural moment. We could see that our humanity was intimately connected to, but not completely absorbed by, our differing worldviews and the sets of ideas, vocabulary, books, and values they represented," she recalled.
"We could see each other as human beings even across our differences. And because of this perspective, we could come to the table, break bread, and talk."
Butterfield also spoke out against churches that she says have given into cultural pressure and gone against biblical understandings of sexuality.
Butterfield recalled in a 2013 interview with The Christian Post that her decision to turn to Christ "had a horrible, mangling impact on my gay and lesbian community. It was a bloodbath."
"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," she added at the time.
"So I am hopeful, but God has protected me because I am also weak."