HOUSTON?For Michael Newman “coming out” was a major turning point in his life. He was determined to not look back. No one, this time, was going to convince him that he should live any other way.
It’s been more than 20 years since Newman followed through on what he believes was the conviction of the Holy Spirit and came out?not out of the closet?but out of a homosexual life.
Since then he has dedicated his life to helping other men and women, indwelled by the Holy Spirit and embracing biblical identity in Christ, come out of homosexuality as well.
Newman, an ordained Southern Baptist minister and member of First Baptist Church of Houston, said he recalls life events?dating as far back as when he was 3 1/2 years old?that began to define him. Words that were said, names called, and the unsettling realization that he was not like most other kids began to compound. Growing up in the 1950s and early ’60s gave Newman a “distorted world-view,” he said.
Fathers, he imagined, either all “worked like dogs or they went off to war and got killed.” His father was in the former group. Both his parents were products of divorce; neither of them knew their fathers well, if at all. His dad, he said, did not easily grasp the role of effective father to a talkative, artistic little boy and consequently failed to convey biblical manhood effectively.
“There wasn’t really a place for me in a little boys’ world,” he said.
In retrospect, Newman saw how the lack of a strong father figured into the defining of his own character. He doesn’t blame his father for the choices he made later in life, but Newman has seen, through his studies and counseling of homosexuals, the lack of strong family foundations as a recurring and underlying element with most people in the homosexual life.
His parents tried to do right by him, he admitted, sending him to church and Vacation Bible School (he still has certificates recognizing his participation in VBS). But, he added, it seemed that church was good for him, not for his folks. They went to church but did not reinforce biblical values at home. It is no small irony, he said, that the path of Newman’s homosexuality would ebb and flow from the church.
At 13, Newman heard the gospel for the first time and responded in faith. Yet his ideas of himself in relation to other teenage boys were still conflicted. There were no sexual urges but he admired many from afar, envying their confidence and desiring their friendship.
He remained the odd man out in high school. Not having an outlet for his artistic talents, teachers put him in Spanish class where he excelled. Being the best and brightest at learning foreign languages became his goal, the foundation upon which he would receive approval and self worth.
It was in his freshman year of college that his self-identity was sealed.
“In a drunken stupor,” Newman said, “I gave into all the name calling.” He had been confronted by another student who said, “I’m gay and you are too.” Following his first homosexual encounter, Newman, who was involved with a student church group but not fully committed, began wondering what God thought about homosexuality.
That was in 1972 when pro-homosexual theology was entering the church in some quarters, he said. A rewrite of the 23rd Psalm began: “The Lord is my shepherd, he knows I’m gay.”
Newman said he began to believe that if he were not promiscuous, but sought out a meaningful, monogamous relationship, God would approve. Looking back on such ideas, Newman laughed, “You can’t make deals with God.”
Instead of condoning his homosexuality, God confronted Newman in the form of a godly roommate named Sam. He said somehow God had prepared Sam to hear Newman’s confession because his response was caring and thoughtful. “He didn’t try to fix me. He showed me God could do bigger things.”
Through such encouraging and the conviction of the Holy Spirit, Newman sought counseling and committed to being abstinent. He remained faithful to himself and God through graduate school and his year-long search for a teaching job afterward. In 1978, God brought him to Houston.
“And lo and behold I found homosexuality in the church,” Newman exclaimed. An older man, who left his wife to pursue his self-proclaimed true self, found Newman and “hooked” him. Newman said the relationship was everything he had been looking for just after his first homosexual encounter. He had stopped pursuing that lifestyle idea but it found him and he succumbed after five years of abstinent living.
About a year and a half later, he was jolted back to reality with the death of his grandmother, a woman he dearly loved. He was convicted of his own sin which included being an obstacle to the man with whom he was involved. He broke off the relationship, changed churches, and, more clearly than ever, heard God’s call.
God revealed that his homosexuality was not the only sin in his life, but it was rooted in other sins. His idols were affirmation, approval and achievement. He sought those through his schoolwork, his career search and his relationships. Once he gave his life back to God, he was shown that there was a way out of homosexuality?not just from the sexual act itself, but from the desires and struggles that come with the conflict of identity.
By 1985 Newman was called to be a part of a ministry created to help homosexuals come out of that life and seek their true worth in who they are to God. Christian Coalition for Reconciliation is a Houston-based ministry affiliated with Exodus International, an organization founded in 1976 whose goal is to promote “freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ.”
Through one-on-one counseling, group sessions, accountability and encouraging partnerships, the life-changing ministry of CCR has extended from Houston to San Antonio, Dallas, College Station and, through his speaking engagements (Newman is fluent in Spanish and French), around the world.
The fundamental element necessary for a homosexual to change is a relationship with God.
“If it had not been for Jesus Christ, there would have been no reason to change. No power to change,” Newman said. It was the intermittent, yet unrelenting, conviction of the Holy Spirit that finally brought him completely out of the homosexual life and into the CCR ministry?a ministry that has become more difficult through the years.
Newman is fighting a cultural tide of approval and affirmation of the homosexual lifestyle?some of his old idols. His counseling used to be primarily to adults, particularly adult men. Today he counsels many teens raised on the social mantra that sexual taboos are passé. They are being brought to his office by parents who have discovered or suspect homosexual proclivities, he said.
“They’ve been brought up with ‘Why is gay so wrong?’ and TV role models,” Newman said. “We are going to lose this generation” of teens if the church does not get actively involved in this issue.
Most churches and Christians, he said, still find homosexuality so off-putting that they fail to address it or, worse, present an image of the church as a place of condemnation instead of a beacon of hope. He was quick to add that some churches?in some cases entire denominations?have, in an effort to show God’s love and compassion for all people, let slip God’s message of sin and the need for reconciliation with God. Southern Baptists, he said, are one church group that has held on to biblical standards regarding homosexual acts.
He does fault the church, though, for being inconsistent in its discussion of this public and, now, political sin. “The church needs to talk about the issue as an overall picture of sexual morality ? not picking on homosexuality at voting time.”
Homosexuality is not a battle to be fought in the voting booth, but o