Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Cloudy 53° Cloudy
News >  Features

Family Tradition Promise Keepers Want Return To Biblical Values

Take the men’s movement, mix in a dose of biblical scripture, and you have the spiritual phenomenon known as Promise Keepers.

Formed in 1991 by former University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney, Promise Keepers is an increasingly popular ministry that preaches the need for men to take responsibility for what, in a more political context, would be referred to as simple family values.

Area men will have an opportunity to see for themselves what the Promise Keepers movement entails during a special “Wake-Up Call” from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the Spokane Opera House. There is no admission fee, although a donation will be requested.

As explained by Doug Engberg, director of the Washington state Promise Keepers office, the values that define the organization are outlined in seven specific commitments. They range from “honoring Jesus Christ” to “practicing spiritual, moral, ethical and sexual purity” to “building strong marriages and families through love, protection and biblical values.”

And, Engberg stresses, it is important that men hold each other responsible to honor the commitments they’ve made.

“What we believe is that men need to be in relationship with one another to help them keep their promises to these tenets,” Engberg said recently in a telephone interview from his Seattle office. “It doesn’t mean that we’re going to keep them perfectly, but we’re going to strive toward these. And we believe that these promises are biblically based.”

What, you may ask, are these specific biblical bases? The Bible is full of them.

“There are many verses of scripture in the Bible that bring these (promises) out,” Engberg said. “I could give scripture and verse for each.”

Look, for example, at Proverbs 27:17, which goes like this: “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”

Scripture such as this, interpreted by McCartney and others, fueled the inspirational fires of early Promise Keepers proselytes. Those fires led to the initial Promise Keepers conference in Boulder, Colo., that attracted more than 4,000 men.

And the attraction continues. As of last summer, an estimated quartermillion men had attended conferences held across the United States (such a two-day affair is scheduled for July 7-8 in Seattle’s Kingdome). Many more have turned out for the various abbreviated mini-conferences, such as the one scheduled for Saturday in the Opera House. More than 3,000 men are expected to attend.

That estimate is offered by David Fitts, general manager of the Christian-music radio station KTSLFM and one of the Spokane “WakeUp Call” organizers. According to Fitts, some 1,200 men attended the Sept. 17 “Wake-Up Call” at Spokane’s Fourth Memorial Church.

“Usually they have a great turnout,” Fitts said. “It’s usually more than what people predict, but I think 3,000 is probably the max that we could get over (at the Opera House).”

And what will the men who show up Saturday encounter? Praise, worship music, a video and speakers such as Bob Morehead and Bishop Westbrook, Fitts said. “But mostly it will be to share the vision of what Promise Keepers is all about,” Fitts added. “Just get the men pumped up.”

Just as the overall men’s movement has attracted criticism, Promise Keepers has been the target of charges that it is a continuation of the “Father Knows Best” mentality. That it is an organization made up primarily of white men who maintain a paternalistic attitude toward their families, and particularly toward the women in their lives.

Engberg and Fitts say such charges are at once wrong and wrong-headed.

“Our purpose statement is this,” Engberg said, “that Promise Keepers is a Christ-centered ministry that is dedicated to uniting men in vital relationships to become godly influences in the world. So what we’re calling men to is accountability to one another. We’re calling men to a relationship with Jesus Christ first of all, and then we’re calling men to one another.”

And that calling, he says, disregards all barriers - ethically, denominationally, culturally.

“This is not a white man’s group,” Fitts said. “We believe that a true representation of God’s church is men from all races and denominations. We want to reach out cross-culturally.”

As for how Promise Keepers views women, Engberg allows how women could have concerns for an organization that excludes them.

“Our focus is on men,” he admitted. But, he added, “It’s not as if we have anything against women. We want men to go back and truly love their wives. We’ve had the testimonies of many wives who have called our office saying, ‘My husband is not the same since he came back. He’s a different man.’

“We’re not asking men to go back and start ruling their homes,” Engberg said. “We’re asking men to go back and love their wives. We believe that servant leadership is what God is calling us to.”

Fitts, who says his wife thinks Promise Keepers is “WON-der-ful,” sees the concerns of women as ironic.

“This whole thing was really born out of the fact that the women really (used to be) the spiritual leaders of the household,” he said. The idea of Promise Keepers, he said, “was to raise the men up in the home, make them really the leader in the household. I would think the women would be thrilled that role could be put back on the shoulders where it belongs.”

And is there a movement among women to found a counterpart to Promise Keepers?

“I’ve heard that there are things going on,” Fitts said. “But I don’t know if there is anything actually officially structured at this point. No doubt there will be.”

And then he ventured a guess as to what it might be called.

“Promise Reapers?” Fitts said with a laugh.

xxxx The seven tenets of Promise Keepers A Promise Keeper is … 1. Committed to honoring Jesus Christ through worship, prayer and obedience to God’s word and the power of the holy spirit. 2. Committed to pursuing vital relationships with other men, understanding that he needs brothers to help him keep his promises. 3. Committed to practicing spiritual, moral, ethical and sexual purity. 4. Committed to building strong marriages and families through love, protection and biblical values. 5. Committed to supporting the mission of the church by honoring and praying for its pastor and by actively giving time and resources. 6. Committed to reaching beyond any racial-denominational barriers to demonstrate the power of biblical unity. 7. Committed to influence in his world, being obedient to the great commandment and the great commission.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.