Promise Keepers

A movement striving for men’s spiritual renewal and racial reconciliation within a Christian framework.

Promise Keepers is an evangelical Christian organization that was founded in 1990 by Bill McCartney, a former football coach at the University of Colorado. It emerged as a dynamic force within American Christianity, calling men to embrace values of integrity, commitment, and spiritual leadership, particularly within their families and communities. The organization initially gained significant traction through large stadium events that gathered men from various backgrounds to commit to a set of seven promises, which focus on honoring Jesus Christ, pursuing vital relationships with other men, and practicing spiritual, moral, ethical, and sexual purity.

At its height in the 1990s, Promise Keepers was known for its massive assemblies, such as the Stand in the Gap event in Washington, D.C., which drew hundreds of thousands of men to pray and commit to being better Christians. However, after its peak, the organization faced a period of decline, attributed to various factors including financial challenges and a changing sociopolitical landscape. The organization underwent significant reorganization, reducing its staff and refocusing its mission to adapt to new contexts.

In recent years, Promise Keepers has sought to rebrand and relaunch itself, with an emphasis on addressing contemporary issues facing men in the 21st century, including racial reconciliation and the challenges of modern masculinity. The leadership under Ken Harrison, a former Los Angeles street cop and commercial real estate executive, indicates a shift towards engaging with the complexities of modern societal issues, including racism, while maintaining a commitment to evangelical Christian beliefs. Despite these efforts, the organization has faced challenges in navigating the highly polarized cultural and political climate, particularly in relation to its stances on race, gender, and sexuality.

Criticism of Promise Keepers has centered on its views regarding masculinity, gender roles, and sexual orientation, with some seeing the organization’s teachings as promoting a conservative, patriarchal view of family and society. Nevertheless, Promise Keepers has also been praised for its efforts towards racial reconciliation and its call for men to take responsibility for their actions and to engage positively in their communities.

The organization’s approach to racial issues, particularly in the wake of the George Floyd protests and the broader racial reckoning in the United States, highlights its complex position within evangelical Christianity. While Promise Keepers has historically promoted racial unity, the effectiveness and methodology of these efforts have been subjects of debate. Critics argue that while the organization calls for personal repentance and reconciliation, it has struggled to address systemic and structural aspects of racism effectively.

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