National Mall animball.gif (1653 bytes)  Washington, D.C.
October 4, 1997

An Eye Witness Report

By Dr. Ralph G. Colas

Fundamental News Service

{Editor’s note: Several letters from Promise Keepers have suggested that if I would just go to one of their assemblies my mind would be totally changed about this new movement. Here is the message from one who did attend the Washington, D. C. Rally. It is reprinted here with permission.)

"At Promise Keepers, we're not concerned about a man's denominational label," said PK founder and CEO, Bill McCartney. Dozens of denominations sent official representatives to Stand in the Gap, PK's Assembly on October 4, 1997, at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.—including American Baptist, Assembly of God, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Christian Reformed, Church of Christ, Episcopalian, Evangelical Free, Lutheran, Messianic Jewish, Nazarene, Presbyterian Church, USA, Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist Convention, and United Methodist.

A number of the above religious groups are a part of the National Council of Churches (NCC) or the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). Other denominations represented in Washington are outside the NCC and NAE, such as the Roman Catholic Church and the Free Will Baptist Churches. While more than forty speakers addressed this large gathering, not one would be identified as a separatist Fundamentalist. Some of the men who were participants on the speaker's podium were Mike Timmis (a Roman Catholic who was recently added to PK's Board of Directors), Joe Stowell (Moody Bible Institute president), Max Lucado(Oak Hills Church of Christ, San Antonio, TX, pastor), Jack Hayford (Church on the Way, Van Nuys, CA, pastor), Joseph Garlington (Covenant Church, Pittsburgh, PA, pastor), Tony Evans (Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, Dallas, TX, pastor), James Robison (TV host and charismatic Southern Baptist from Texas), and James Ryle (Bill McCartney's pastor, Vineyard Christian Fellowship, Longmont, CO). Bill McCartney spoke for 20 minutes while the others took a shorter amount of time.

The Public Relations organization used was the DeMoss Group, Atlanta, GA. They handled all of the media contacts and credentialing of the more than 1,000 members of the press who had come from 10 countries. Strict procedures regulated the press, who met in a large tent with numerous videos set up so they could see and hear what was taking place on the large stage set up on the Mall. The one and only press conference that day was held with Bill McCartney in the media tent before the program began. At that press conference, before inviting any questions from the press, McCartney shared that this long-planned meeting came into existence because Rev. Randy Phillips, PK President, had a vision as he was jogging around the National Mall. According to McCartney, this vision came from the Lord, and Phillips saw a large gathering of men for a religious service at that place.

McCartney read the purpose statement that had been adopted for this giant assembly—" gather a diverse multitude of men in the name of Jesus Christ, to confess personal and collective sin, so that we may present to the Lord godly men on their knees in humility, then on their feet in unity, reconciled and poised for revival and spiritual awakening." Coach McCartney gave the members of the press a preview of his talk scheduled for later in the day. He said, "The church of Jesus Christ has been divided and a house divided cannot stand. The reason that we see a downward spiral in morality in the nation is because the men of God have not stood together. We ask each guy to go back to his own local church and to make a stronger commitment inside that church." McCartney made another important statement: "We are asking that churches, through the leadership of the pastor, connect with other churches in the community over a broad scale. Weekly we want them to come together—the leaders—to pray and share the needs of the community so that these pastors can bring the burden back to their own men." In listing one of PK's major goals, the former coach said, "As a matter of fact, on January 1, in the year 2000, in every state all across the United States, we are asking the pastors and their men inside that geographical state to gather on the state capitol steps and take roll call.... We do not speak against other denominations, but as a matter of fact, we are all one brotherhood."

This event, which cost about $10 million, was emceed by Jack Hayford, a charismatic pastor from Van Nuys, CA. His skill in behavior tactics was evident. He kept the program moving along in steps that were structured around various appeals to the men. At given times, the men were urged to bow their heads, to kneel, to fall prostrate on the ground, and even to hug one another. The music, for the most part, was not as wild as at some of the previous rallies held in stadiums or even at the PK Clergy Conference in Atlanta, GA.

As speaker after speaker issued proclamations and confessions, the men formed small groups to confess and repent for moral failures: cheating their employers, hating their enemies, ignoring their children, and abusing their wives. They were asked to take a family photo from their wallet, hold it and look at their loved ones, and then lie prostrate before God and confess "I have been an abusive man. I have sinned against you."

Max Lucado (Oak Hills Church of Christ, San Antonio, TX) led in confessing the sin of disunity in the Body of Christ. Using the same technique that he did at the PK Clergy Conference in Atlanta, in February 1996, Lucado had them call out all at once the various denominations with which they were identified. Of course, the result was a confused, loud sound. Then they were asked to shout out the name of Jesus, and they willingly did so in unison. In this manner Lucado shows that PK is unified because they claim to love Jesus.

The PK men at this assembly were asked to pray for "the Miracle of the Millennium." This was to be done so the "sin of sectarianism" could be confessed. It was declared that "those who think they know all the truth and that their denomination is more faithful to God's Word than another are guilty of sin. The world has never seen a united church. We have seen a divided small church in communities from which we have come. Today we see a united Great Church." An example given to this large crowd of a great and noble Christian was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Yet Dr. King rejected foundational truths, namely the virgin birth and physical resurrection of Christ. History revealed that King was an adulterer; but this, of course, was not shared at the PK Assembly. The pastor of the Above and Beyond Baptist Church, Houston, TX, Rev. William J. Lindsey, said, "I believe part of the dream that Martin Luther King expressed here in 1963 is being fulfilled today."

Although for a long time PK leaders had boldly announced that no offering would be taken at the Washington Assembly, reduced income during 1997 necessitated a different strategy. A strong appeal was made by charismatic evangelist James Robison. He announced that it would be the greatest offering ever given in all history. The free New Testament (Contemporary English Version) given to everyone contained two offering envelopes, one for the person with the New Testament and the other for someone else who did not have one and thus had no offering envelope. The men were strongly urged to write out their check or to use a credit card. Robison encouraged everyone to put down a monthly pledge to PK--$100, $50, $25, etc. "Give the greatest gift you have ever given. Give a love offering to Promise Keepers," he pled. {Note that Robison was asking them to give more than they had ever given to their local church. Yet, they claim to be very supportive of the local church. Editor}

It took so long to take the offering that no time was left to present the pre-recorded address by Billy Graham. The press were given an advance copy of Dr. Graham's remarks. Graham said, "Coach McCartney has just challenged each of you to return home with a renewed commitment to your local church and pastors. Return to your churches as one who is a player, not a spectator." (As usual, and not unexpectedly, Dr. Graham failed to distinguish between solid, Fundamental, Bible-believing churches and those who are a part of Roman Catholic, Charismatic, salvation by works, etc., churches).

Some observations by this reporter:

The large crowd—700,000 up to more than 1 million—was orderly. The police actually stood around with very little to do besides directing the traffic. The only time we witnessed any strong rebuke and warning came when a member picketing the PK men got out of line and tried to thwart the PK men from reaching the National Mall. The policeman told this member of the National Organization for Women (NOW) he would haul him off to jail if he tried it one more time.

Some have suggested that Promise Keepers is an organization approved by God because the NOW and the gay and lesbian organizations oppose it. However, bear in mind that these same radical groups also oppose the U.S. National Catholic Bishops and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). Holy Scripture is the test of truth, not the presence or proclamations of opposition groups. {I have been told that I am a supporter of NOW and the gay and lesbian movements because I oppose PKs. Editor}

Promise Keepers continues to "break down the walls," biblical truth being replaced with the perceived benefit of a male-bonding experience. Promise Keepers is an ecumenical hodgepodge, for it brings together, under one umbrella, churches and individuals with various non-Fundamentalist affiliations (e.g., NCC, WCC, NAE, WEF, Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, Mormon, Oneness Pentecostal, independent groups), as well as many compromising Fundamentalists.

Bill McCartney is a Roman Catholic who has become a convert to charismaticism since visiting the Vineyard Fellowship Group in Boulder, CO. In his autobiography, From Ashes to Glory, he calls himself a "born-again Catholic." He adds in that book, "Making a profession of faith like I did may not be expected and may not even be important in the Catholic Church." Can anyone who is truly born again treat so lightly what the Lord Jesus declared to be an absolute essential? John 3:3 says, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." PK continues to seek the approval of Roman Catholic leaders and even changed its doctrinal statement so it would not offend Roman Catholics who reject "by faith alone." The National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Marriage and Family said, "Catholic men are being drawn to Promise Keepers.... PK is the proverbial wake-up-call to the Church to encourage and offer more ministry suited to the needs of men." One need not be surprised when a Roman Catholic Monsignor in New York leads a special mass to help Roman Catholic men prepare for a PK Conference. Promise Keepers continues to welcome Catholic participation in its ministries. Mike Timmis was added to PK's Board of Directors and clearly identified himself at the PK Assembly in Washington as a Catholic. Speakers at the PK rallies include signers of the manifesto "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission of the Third Millennium." Among those who signed this unbiblical document, which called on Evangelicals to stop winning Roman Catholics to Christ, were Chuck Colson, Jesse Miranda, Pat Robertson, Bill Bright, J. I. Packer, and a large number of Roman Catholic leaders. Yet, PK leaders apparently consider unimportant or irrelevant—in comparison with PK's goal of "breaking down the walls"—Roman Catholicism's heresy of teaching salvation by belonging to their church. Steve Green sang "Let the Walls Come Down" at PK's Assembly just as he did at the PK Clergy Conference in Atlanta.

No less than five of the 16 PK board members have ties to charismatic churches. In spite of his extra-biblical beliefs and practices, many Evangelicals associated with PK look with favor on John Wimber, the Vineyard Denomination, and its third wave theology. A leading charismatic leader, Jack Deere, has said that every Christian has the capacity to receive prophecy. He declares, "In order to fulfill God's highest purpose for our lives, we must be able to hear His voice both in the written Word and in the Word freshly spoken from heaven." Another charismatic, Marc Dupont, believes that when a spirit of revelation is upon a person, that person can go into a mall and discern whether an individual is involved in homosexuality or adultery or is suffering from child abuse. The facts reveal that PK's unbiblical base is composed of charismatics and those who defend or excuse maintaining membership in liberal, apostate denominations. Years ago, a rancher from one of the Western states shared with me how they killed gophers that were damaging their fields and causing injuries to their cattle and horses. "If you take a bushel of poison and just a peck of wheat," he said, "the gophers will not eat it. However, if you take a bushel of wheat along with a peck of poison, the gophers take the bait and the gopher population goes on the decline."

There are pastors and laymen who suggest that there is "good" in PK's goals and program. However, mixed in with the wheat (truths) is the "poison" that gullible individuals swallow because of the bait of psychological manipulations and mass confessions. Religious error is being propagated by "biblically illiterate" people led by Bill McCartney.

Isaiah 8:20 spells it out most forcefully: "To the law and to the testimony: If they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them."

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