The debate over Ted Haggard's claim that he is now "completely heterosexual" incited a surge of reports on gay therapy and if it really frees people from homosexual feelings. And at the center of the debate are evangelicals, one of whom says many people, including Christians, have faulty thinking on the controversial matter.
"I think we (evangelicals) have relegated the issue over the last 40 to 50 years to the clinical sciences - psychology, psychotherapy," said Tim Wilkins, a former homosexual who speaks at more than 120 events each year, telling Christians how to deal with the issue of homosexuality. "We've allowed them to define the terms and come up with terms such as 'reorientation' and 'reparative therapy.' And evangelicals have since adopted the terminology."
While Haggard, who resigned as head of the National Association of Evangelicals after a former male prostitute alleged the pastor paid him for sex and methamphetamine for three years, came out of three intense weeks of counseling and "restoration" reportedly healed from his homosexual desires, Wilkins says the entire concept of converting homosexuals to become heterosexuals is not biblical.
"Same-sex attraction is not an orientation," he told The Christian Post. "It is a temptation. But we have been fed that it's an orientation from the clinical sciences."
Such a mindset would place the focus on "reorienting" or "converting" people. "That's faulty thinking," said Wilkins, who does not believe Haggard could be restored in three weeks.
More than 100 groups around the country give counseling that can cost up to $200 a session, according to a CNN report.
"People are already heterosexual - physiologically, anatomically and biologically," Wilkins explained. "My point being that same-sex attraction is a temptation. We are not exempt from temptation in this life."
Wilkins, a Southern Baptist, struggled with homosexual feelings at a young age a time when books on coming out of homosexuality were rare. Abandoned emotionally and felt unloved by his father, Wilkins turned to male friends for gratification. The attraction went on through his early 20s until he began seminary where he discovered on his own that it's not a matter of turning attraction from men to women but rather getting his relationship right with God.
Many homosexuals, however, are told that they must be attracted to the opposite sex. Wilkins called that "unbiblical."
"It is not a sin to not be attracted to the opposite sex (being single is not a sin). The goal is not to be attracted to the opposite sex."
Wilkins, who is trying to write a book on the issue, brought in Scripture to his argument. "Before God gave Adam Eve, God gave Adam Himself." In other words, a relationship with God must become preeminent in order for all other relationships to fall into place.
Another unbiblical concept, Wilkins pointed out, is the thinking that people who find freedom from homosexuality should never ever have a same-sex thought ever again in their life.
Alan Chambers, president of the nation's largest ex-gay group Exodus International, recently told CNN's Anderson Cooper that his same-sex attractions have "greatly diminished." Yet he's a human being, Chambers said.
"For me to say that I could never be attracted to men again, or that I couldn't be tempted would mean that I'm not human, and that's just not the case."
Both Chambers and Wilkins are happily married men and after decades of freedom from homosexuality, they still admit to being human. But Wilkins believes Haggard, also married, is doing a "disservice" to evangelicals by claiming to be completely straight and not admitting that his struggle is with same-sex attraction.
Amid skepticism on Haggard's claim, associate pastor Rob Brendle of New Life Church, which Haggard formerly pastored, said what the evangelical leader meant to communicate was that his choice is to be married to his wife and to love her.
Nevertheless, as one of the most influential evangelicals in the nation, Haggard is being watched closely by Christians all around the world, said Wilkins, who hopes the former church leader will not lead people erroneously into perpetuating a "quick fix" type of mentality.
The struggle with same-sex attraction and the inadequate responses Christians have been finding in evangelical churches have led some homosexuals seeking therapy, some adopting gay theology, some becoming disillusioned, and some leaving the Christian faith altogether, noted Wilkins.
Still, Wilkins sees improvement in the churches. Invitations are coming in more frequently for him to speak at Christian venues. He was even invited this year to a United Methodist Church which he says has fought "a long, hard battle" on homosexuality.