WASHINGTON -- In the seven years since Promise Keepers was founded, the mass gatherings of evangelical Christian men have been criticized by some for having an almost entirely white, middle-class attendance, with just a smattering of minority participation.
Acknowledging past failures, Promise Keepers founder Bill McCartney said yesterday that an Oct. 4 gathering on the Mall in Washington, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of men from across country, will be notable for its diversity.
"We made a mistake the very first gathering [in 1991] by not having a full cross section of the body of Christ," said McCartney, a former University of Colorado head football coach, during a news media briefing in Washington for next month's "Stand in the Gap: a Sacred Assembly of Men."
"And it's really hard to recover from that kind of a beginning, because if you don't have your brothers of color there at the beginning, it's like then you're inviting them to come to fill up a quota," he said. "And many have felt like it has worked out that way.
McCartney said efforts by Promise Keepers organizers to recruit more minority men to participate will bear fruit. "It really is something God is doing," he said. "He's bringing us together, across denominations, cross culturally. And he continues to do it. And I believe what you're going to see on Oct. 4th is an incredible demonstration of what God has been doing."
McCartney deflected criticism from the National Organization for Women that some of the Promise Keepers rhetoric is anti-woman. NOW President Patricia Ireland singled out the metaphor of a "spiritual battle" for criticism.
"The Bible is clear about where the war is fought, the war is a spiritual war," McCartney said. "And so the way that a guy would go to war is he would get together with another guy and pray for his family, for his community, for others."
"I don't think she's wrong to react like that as such," McCartney said of Ireland. "But if she understood the context in which it was presented, it would be helpful to her."
Promise Keepers, founded in 1990, is an organization of Christian men that is best known for the conferences it sponsors in stadiums and arenas. It calls on men to take responsibility for their relationships with God, their families and with people of all races.
McCartney acknowledged that attendance at this year's stadium events is down. "A year ago we had 1.2 million," he said. "We're currently in excess of 600,000, so it's almost in half." There is one more Promise Keepers event scheduled after the Oct. 4 event.
Part of the explanation for that could be that some men decided to wait and come to the Washington event, McCartney said.
"But I think there's a way that some guys can have a 'Been there, done that' attitude and there's a certain apathy and indifference," he said.
Pub Date: 9/13/97