Group dedicated to the spiritual, moral and ethical development of men hopes to hold future rallies in Canada.

The Promise Keepers phenomenon is spreading to Canada.

Representatives of the Christian men’s organization held a press conference in Burlington, Ontario recently to announce the start of a Canadian affiliate, making the first time the movement has gone beyond American borders.  The groups leader’s leaders said they are looking forward to the staging of a large-scale stadium conference in this country.

“We will have a conference in Canada, “ said Promise Keepers Canada president Bill Rutherford.  “I can’t say when, but we’re  going to build onto it in increments.  We’ll begin with intermediate-size events and build to larger events in larger metropolitan areas.”

The organization which now has it’s offices in Ontario and B.C., drew about 750,000 men to 13 stadium conferences in the U. S. this year and plans another 20 to 30 conferences next year.  The group was started in 1991 by Bill McCartney, then the head football coach at the University of Colorado, who had a vision of thousands of men coming together in one place for the purpose of Christian discipleship.

“I noticed when men and boys were together, there was a greater stirring of God’s Spirit,” says McCartney.  “Something would just draw the favour of God when men and boys grew together in the name of Jesus of Nazareth.”

The movement’s first meeting at the University of Colorado basketball arena was attended by 4,200 men.  Today, Promise Keepers has 300 full-time staff, a $64-million annual budget and more than 10,000 representatives at the local church level.

“Almighty God is calling men to humble themselves, to pray and seek the face of God,” adds McCartney.  “He’s moving on men in mighty and significant ways.  I believe this is going to go all over the world.”

The organization’s mission statement notes Promise Keepers is dedicated to uniting men through  vital relationships with other men; spiritual, moral and ethical purity and a commitment to influencing the world.

David Mainse, president of Crossroads Christian communications, is calling Promise Keepers one of the most significant movements in Canadian religious history.  “Promise Keepers is all about bringing men closer to God and helping them to build their families up…it cannot but help build our society and nation and make it strong.”

But as Promise Keepers has grown, so has the criticism to which it has been subjected.  The fact that men are urged to exercise leadership in the home has riled some feminists, who see the movement as a backlash against gains women have made in recent years.  For their part, Promise Keepers heads says leadership is about servanthood and that in the home, a man exercises leadership by outserving his wife.

“We lead by servicing,” says Dr. Tom Iwama, chairman of the board for Promise Keepers Canada.  It’s about being clued into the home and turning your heart to your wife and your children.” 

Randy Phillips, president of Promise Keepers U.S.A., stresses the group’s non-political orientation.  “We have no political agenda.  We are not going to be seduced into diluting the message we have for partisan political agendas.  The message Promise Keepers has, transcends the platform of any legislation or candidate.”

“This isn’t an American or fundamentalist thing.” Adds Rutherford.  “This is a God thing.  God is moving across all lines—ethnic and denominational—to unite men.”

But McCartney sparked some suspicion three years ago as a member of a group which endorsed a Colorado state amendment barring the passing of any law protecting homosexuals from discrimination.  He now says that in the future, he will be sensitive to his non political position with Promise Keepers.

The organization’s plans include the staging of Clergy’96, a February meeting in Georgia of 80,000 men involved in pastoral ministry, and a gathering of about a million men in Washington, D.C. in l997 for worship, prayer and other spiritual, non political purposes.

“I believe God has raised Promise Keepers as a vehicle to facilitate the turning of men’s hearts back to God, family and church,” says Iwama.

“We’re just watching what takes place as this move to God ignites beyond he borders man has set up, “adds Phillips.