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NOW attacks Promise Keepers; criticisms off target, men say

WASHINGTON (BP)–The country’s leading feminist organization has launched an attack on Promise Keepers as the Christian men’s organization prepares for the largest event in its six-year history.
The National Organization for Women is sponsoring a “no surrender” campaign depicting Promise Keepers as a stealth political organization intent on reversing women’s rights. The announcement in Washington came less than six weeks before Promise Keepers will hold what it is calling a “sacred assembly of men” on the national mall in the capital Oct. 4.
Promise Keepers has sponsored 13 rallies in stadiums this year. During its six years, about 2.6 million men have attended 61 stadium conferences throughout the country.
Hundreds of thousands of men are expected for Promise Keepers’ Washington meeting Oct. 4, which is described by the organization as a time of worship, confession of sin and commitment intended to bring unity and reawakening to the church.
At an Aug. 25 news conference, NOW President Patricia Ireland said of Promise Keepers’ Oct. 4 Washington meeting, according to a report in The Washington Times, “It’s a plan, a political agenda. We just have to pull the mask off.”
“The Promise Keepers speak about ‘taking back America’ for Christ, but they also mean to take back the rights of women,” Ireland said in a written statement. “Their call for ‘submission’ of women is one that doesn’t have a place in either the pulpit or public sphere in the 1990s.”
Promise Keepers spokesmen said NOW is off target in its charges.
“Promise Keepers is not some overnight sensation to which NOW can say they’ve just uncovered the real plot,” said P.K. spokesman Mark DeMoss, according to The Times. “Promise Keepers is not getting women to do anything.” NOW is “going to be sorely disappointed in what they are going to see Oct. 4. They are going to see men on their knees in prayer,” DeMoss told The Times.
“NOW will have a difficult time finding support among American women in its criticism of an organization that is calling on men to be faithful to their wives, to be more involved in the lives of their children, to be more committed to their churches and to be active in their communities,” DeMoss also said in a written statement.
Steve Ruppe, the Colorado-based organization’s director of public affairs, told Baptist Press, “If we did not have the support of (women), we would not have any kind of continuation of our program.”
At to charges Promise Keepers has political motivations, its leaders consistently have contended it is not political. The group moved its Washington rally from 1996 to this year in order to avoid such an appearance during a presidential election campaign.
Concerned Women for America, the country’s largest pro-family, women’s organization, defended Promise Keepers, saying men “leave conferences better equipped to love their wives for a lifetime.”
While conservative women have long opposed NOW’s agenda, even some feminists in recent years have criticized the organization for being out of touch with its constituency.
Ruppe said Promise Keepers does not plan to give a crowd estimate on the day of its Oct. 4 gathering in Washington but he did not expect NOW’s criticism to hurt attendance.
“The men and the churches who have seen the effect on their congregations from Promise Keepers are coming because they feel that this is the move of God, and they will not be deterred,” Ruppe said.
Earlier this year, a group calling itself Equal Partners in Faith also criticized Promise Keepers and asked people in cities where P.K. rallies were being held to counter their message.
A group of about 60 religious leaders, many from mainline Protestant denominations, sent a letter in May describing Promise Keepers as undermining the equality of women in the family, church and society; as flawed in its approach to dealing with racism; as closely aligned with the religious right and as opposed to the rights of homosexuals. Signers to the letter included Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State; Katherine Ragsdale, an Episcopalian minister who is president of the abortion rights organization Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice; and Mel White, a minister in the Metropolitan Community Church, a primarily homosexual denomination, and a former Christian book ghostwriter.

Compiled by Tom Strode

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