Promise Keepers Returns 10,000-Strong

This year's Promise Keepers stadium event took a different turn from its usual godly men talks.

Relaunched this past weekend under the leadership of founder Bill McCartney, the men's ministry drew some 10,000 men, women and children to Boulder, Colo., for talks of revival and unity.

"We're back because Coach received a clarion call from God to relaunch this ministry. It is recognition of the fact that the church is . . . incredibly divided," Promise Keepers president Raleigh Washington told the Denver Post. "Coach's heart, his calling, is to heal the divide."

The weekend event was scheduled as the only event for Promise Keepers, which is in its 20th year of ministry, this year and the first major event since former University of Colorado football coach McCartney returned to the helm of the ministry last September. Promise Keepers has typically held numerous events across the country throughout the year, drawing tens of thousands of men.

But with declining attendance and revenues, the ministry scaled down the number of stadium-size events in recent years.

Recalling the ministry's glory days, McCartney noted that they had over 350 full-time staff at one time and their budget was $100 million a year.

Returning to the Promise Keepers stage, after having resigned as president in 2003, McCartney, 68, came out strong to relay a message of healing and honor not just in the context of the ministry but in regards to all of Christianity.

"We got to come together," McCartney told attendees at Folsom Field on Friday. "The days are getting darker and more difficult. Lord, you're not coming back for a divided church. You're coming back for a church where everybody's hearts are knit together."

"Here we'll take responsibility for 1,900 years of division and the result will be the tangible presence of God," he told attendees at the two-day event.

McCartney challenged attendees to take responsibility by honoring women, who are often oppressed, serving the poor and needy, and honoring the Jewish heritage of the Christian faith.

"I believe Boulder is the epicenter for the greatest movement of God in 1,900 years," he exclaimed.

This is the first time women were in the crowd of a Promise Keepers event. Women have typically served as volunteers and stood at the entrances of these events to cheer their husbands, fathers and sons on as the men sought to be better men of God in the home, church and society.

Whether women will continue to be invited is still unknown, according to Dave Vada, who manages Promise Keepers volunteers nationwide.

But Promise Keepers president Raleigh Washington stressed to National Public Radio that they are still a men's ministry.

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