Promise Keepers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Promise Keepers
FoundedDecember 3, 1990 (1990-12-03)
FounderBill McCartney
Founded atBoulder, Colorado
HeadquartersColorado Springs, Colorado, United States
Area served
Key people
Ken Harrison, Chairman
$2 million (2020)[1]
28 (2020)[1]

Promise Keepers is an Evangelical Christian parachurch organization for men. It opposes same-sex marriage, and champions chastity and marital fidelity and the man as being head of the household.

Promise Keepers originated in the United States, but independent branches have also been established in Canada and New Zealand. It is a non-profit organization, not affiliated with any Christian church or denomination. Its most widely publicized events tend to be mass rallies held at football stadiums and similar venues.


Promise Keepers was founded in 1990 by Bill McCartney, then the head football coach at the University of Colorado Boulder.[2][3] The organization was incorporated as a nonprofit in the state of Colorado on December 3, 1990.[4]

What Makes a Man?, Promise Keepers' first hardbound book written for the organization, was published by The Navigators' Navpress publishing arm in 1992 for its first Folsom Field gathering in June of that year. James Dobson had McCartney on his Focus on the Family nationwide radio program that same month. McCartney resigned his coaching position in 1994 in order to focus his attention on the organization.

Promise Keepers' most notable event was its Stand in the Gap: A Sacred Assembly of Men open-air gathering at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on October 4, 1997. C-SPAN carried the event live in its entirety. Attendance figures vary but have been estimated to be between 600,000 and 800,000. This was probably its peak, with the organization halving its office staff four months later due to financial problems and the admission fee of $60 for regional rallies dropped in a number of regions. Rally attendance and finances continued to suffer and a planned millennial march to take part at the capital of every state was cancelled.[5]

Promise Keepers has at the same time extended its organization outside the United States, setting up Promise Keepers International which holds "Summit Meetings" in at least seven languages and has set up chapters in other countries.[5]

McCartney resigned as president on October 1, 2003, after a personal leave of absence to take care of his ailing wife, who had a severe respiratory illness.[6]

In April 2018, Promise Keepers announced that the appointment of a new chairman of the board, Ken Harrison. Harrison is also CEO of WaterStone Foundation, a Christian donor-advised fund.[7] He is a former police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department.[8]

Promise Keepers relaunch[edit]

Under Harrison's leadership, Promise Keepers then began a "relaunch" campaign with a new approach focused on having one stadium event per year and following up with Bible studies and other resources.[9]

In May 2020, Promise Keepers announced that its relaunch event at AT&T Stadium would become an online virtual event in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.[10]

Since moving their relaunch event at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas to a virtual platform, Promise Keepers has hosted a variety of live-streamed events and has a live, in-person AT&T Stadium event scheduled for July 16–17, 2021.[11]



The Promise Keepers has been lauded for its Christian focus. However, the group has also been criticized for doctrinal compromises and inconsistent doctrines.

Raymond Hartwig, a former president of the South Dakota District of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, commented: "They use the Bible in a very simplistic form, as a springboard to jump into the law."[12]


The Promise Keepers keep a central tenet of championing the exclusive legitimacy of hetero-sexual male behavior and decry homo-sexual behavior as abnormal. Promise Keeper founder, University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney, called homosexuals "a group of people who don't reproduce, yet want to be compared with people who do reproduce," and maintains that he believes, "Homosexuality is an abomination of Almighty God."[13]


The National Organization for Women (NOW), an American feminist organization, has expressed the view that the Promise Keepers pose a threat to women's rights. NOW contends that the group encourages inequality within marriages and teaches a doctrine of male superiority.[14]

In August, 2020, Promise Keepers chairman Ken Harrison spoke on the topic of Promise Keepers and how it relates to women. "We're really calling men to be humble, proactive leaders in their homes. I don't feel like it's my role to tell women how they should be. That is for their pastor and other people."[1]

According to Amy Schindler, "the discourse of masculinity found within conservative religious movements, such as the Promise Keepers and the Victorian era movement 'muscular Christianity,' is inherently political. Any masculinity project aimed at restoring or reclaiming a 'traditional' male role for privileged white, heterosexual males has a political impact within the tapestry of class, race, and gender power" (1998).[15] Academic Browyn Kara Conrad argued in a 2006 article that the organization reproduces problematic sexual scripts such as the Madonna/whore view of female sexuality and a view of the male sex drive as uncontrollable.[16] A 2002 article from the Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research argued that, despite their initial appearance to be pro-feminist, the Promise Keepers build upon patriarchal assumptions, including having the man as the actor in the family, church, and world, and that they expect women to be passively dependent.[17]


The organization places particular emphasis on godly manhood, with an emphasis on fatherhood. John Bartkowski saw Promise Keepers' leadership in 2000 as evoking two types of manhood: first, is an essentialist appeal to gender difference advocated by Edwin Louis Cole that emphasizes aggression, strength, and rationality; second, is Gary Oliver's "expressive manhood", which says that all of the traits now traditionally attributed to women were practiced by Jesus, and that men should re-connect with their sensitive side.[18] According to a 1999 Yeshiva University study, when it comes to fatherhood, the organization tends to be more conservative, still supporting heterosexist, male predominance in the family.[19]


Following the murder of George Floyd, Promise Keepers launched Promise 6 Sunday, an event aimed toward "building unity" among churches. The event included resources from various evangelical leaders and American public figures including Samuel Rodriguez, Tony Dungy, Alveda King, Donald Burgs, Jr., Chad Hennings, and Ken Harrison.[20]

Patrick Glynn argues that the Promise Keepers succeed in racial reconciliation where politics has seemed to fail.[21] Scholar Siphiwe Dube notes that the organization has open discussions of race that promote racial reconciliation.[22] L. Dean Allen finds that while the organizations' leaders primarily claim that Satan is responsible for fostering racism in individuals and that the best way to counter racism is for people to personally repent and go to confession, PK participants see racism as a more multifaceted issue, citing historical animosity, economic differences, and racial fear. Further, while both leaders and participants see forming relationships with members of other races as important to battling racism, participants do not see PK events as valuable in developing these relationships.[23] Andrea Smith also notes that race relations between Promise Keepers and Native communities is more open.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Banks, Adelle (31 July 2020). "Promise Keepers Christian organization to hold two-day virtual event". Washington Post. Retrieved 21 December 2020. The organization, founded by former University of Colorado coach Bill McCartney — now diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and unable to participate in the virtual event — has cut its staff from a high of 345 to 28. Its budget, not including events, is $2 million, compared with about $30 million 20 years ago.
  2. ^ Randall Herbert Balmer, Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism, Westminster John Knox Press, USA, 2002, p. 561
  3. ^ Barry Hankins, American Evangelicals: A Contemporary History of a Mainstream Religious Movement, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, USA, 2009, p. 129
  4. ^ "Summary". Colorado Secretary of State. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  5. ^ a b Bartkowski, John P. (2004). The Promise Keepers: Servants, Soldiers, and Godly Men. Rutgers University Press. pp. 2–4, 7. ISBN 978-0813533360. Archived from the original on 2016-03-06. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  6. ^ Gorski, Ed (10 September 2003). "Promise Keepers head to step down". Denver Post.
  7. ^ "A New Vision for Promise Keepers - Christian Newswire". (Press release). Retrieved 2021-03-17.
  8. ^ "Ken Harrison | Penguin Random House". Retrieved 2021-03-17.
  9. ^ Mwaura, Maina (9 August 2020). "New Promise Keepers CEO ready to see a revival among men". Georgia Baptist Mission Board. The Christian Index. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  10. ^ Correspondent, Steve Rabey Religion (27 July 2020). "Promise Keepers offers free global livestream". Colorado Springs Gazette. Retrieved 2021-03-17.
  11. ^ "Catch the Promise Keepers Virtual Encore Event with Special Highlights From 2020 Global Digital Experience". CBN News. 2020-09-07. Retrieved 2021-03-26.
  12. ^ "Promise Keepers (PK), Pro and Con: PART 1". "Some Christian Fundamentalists have criticized PK for being too ecumenical, too New Age and too 'sissified.' 4 PK has been criticized for its 'unionism', 'anti-denominationalism' and 'watering down of doctrine.'" - Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
  13. ^ "History of the Anti-Gay Movement Since 1977".
  14. ^ "Viewpoint: Promise Keepers Pose A Real Threat" Archived 2006-11-20 at the Wayback Machine. National Organization for Women. Retrieved on February 29, 2012.
  15. ^ Schindler, Amy. 1998. "Power, Patriarchy, and the Promise Keepers: The Pleasure of Religious Ecstasy." Paper, annual meeting, American Sociological Association, Toronto.
  16. ^ Conrad, Browyn Kara (2006). "Neo-Institutionalism, Social Movements, and the Cultural Reproducation of a Mentalité: Promise Keepers Reconstruct the Madonna/Whore Complex". The Sociological Quarterly. 47 (2): 305–331. doi:10.1111/j.1533-8525.2006.00047.x. S2CID 146568812.
  17. ^ Eldén, Sara (2002). "Gender politics in conservative men's movements: Beyond complexity, ambiguity and pragmatism". Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research. 10: 38–48. doi:10.1080/080387402317533871. S2CID 145712635.
  18. ^ Bartkowski, John (2000). "Breaking Walls, Raising Fences: Masculinity, Intimacy, and Accountability among the Promise Keepers". Sociology of Religion. 61 (1): 33–53. doi:10.2307/3712089. JSTOR 3712089.
  19. ^ Silverstein, Louise B.; Auerbach, Carl F.; Grieco, Loretta; Dunkel, Faith (1999). "Do Promise Keepers Dream of Feminist Sheep?". Sex Roles. 40 (9/10): 665–688. doi:10.1023/a:1018852500604. S2CID 146524040.
  20. ^ "Free Resources from Promise Keepers to Challenge Racism - and the Power of Racial Reconciliation".
  21. ^ Glynn, Patrick (1998). "Racial Reconciliation: Can Religion Work Where Politics Has Failed?". American Behavioral Scientist. 41 (6): 834–841. doi:10.1177/0002764298041006005. S2CID 145220785.
  22. ^ Dube, Siphiwe (2016). "Race, whiteness and transformation in the Promise Keepers America and the Mighty Men Conference: A comparative analysis". HTS Teologiese Studies. 72. doi:10.4102/hts.v72i1.3476. hdl:2263/61074.
  23. ^ Allen, L. Dean (2000). "Promise Keepers and Racism: Frame Resonance as an Indicator of Organizational Vitality". Sociology of Religion. 61 (1): 55–72. doi:10.2307/3712090. JSTOR 3712090.
  24. ^ Smith, Andrea (2006). "The One Who Did Not Break His Promises: Native Americans in the Evangelical Race Reconciliation Movement". American Behavioral Scientist. 50 (4): 478–509. doi:10.1177/0002764206294058. S2CID 144773802.

Further reading[edit]



External links[edit]