For years, the response of churches to homosexuality has been one of condemnation.
"It is a sin. Period," they only thought, according to the head of a N.C.-based ministry to homosexuals.
But churches are now beginning to proclaim a new message - one of redemption.
Recognizing the changing trend in the church community, Cross Ministry President Tim Wilkins said, "Over the last 4-5 years, I have seen a dramatic change in evangelical churches in their take on the issue. They're much more proactive."
Cross Ministry, a member of Exodus International North America, has generated wider attention over recent years as its president travels across the nation to equip the church to evangelize and disciple the homosexual.
"Just How Tolerant was Jesus?" "If a Friend Says 'I'm Gay,'" and "The Church: 'Walking by Faith, not by Fright" are just some of the topics addressed by Wilkins at his More than Words conferences, and more people are inviting him and the topic of homosexuality into their churches.
"I'm speaking in Grand Rapids. That's not the Bible Belt," noted Wilkins whose upcoming speaking event at White Hills Bible Church in Michigan is on Apr. 2.
"The church has a responsibility to proclaim that message (homosexuality is a sin), but it also has the responsibility to share the redemptive message. Freedom from homosexuality is a reality and the church has an obligation to speak the truth in love," he said.
The one-day More Than Words conferences emphasize walking versus talking people out of homosexuality.
"If words changed things, everything would already be changed," he pointed out. "Words are important, but we are dealing with an issue ... that involves an addiction. There must be 'walking out.'
Referencing Scripture, Wilkins called it "discipleship."
It is not a specific formula that resolves the issue, he added, but it is more about walking people out day by day, encouraging and loving people in such a way that the genuine Christian love found within God's church will eclipse the love that's found in homosexuality.
With the subtitle "Walking People Out of Homosexuality," the conference accents the term "people" to not only target homosexuals but everyone dealing with the issue.
"We Christians, evangelicals need to be equipped on how to love family members, friends, [etc.]"
Wilkins credits the more proactive role churches are taking to the growing involvement in HIV/AIDS.
"The ministry of HIV/AIDS has actually led the way," said Wilkins. "It has in a sense provided some guiding steps to discuss now more publicly and more 'receptively' the church's role in ministry to people with same sex attractions and tools to evangelize homosexuals.
"One preceded the other. And I think it's been advantageous."
The More Than Words Conference will also be held this year at First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas on May 6 and First Assembly of God in Raleigh, N.C., on Aug. 12.
For more information on the More Than Words Conference, visit www.crossministry.org.