(CNSNews.com) - Christian organizers on Thursday announced plans for a "sacred gathering of men" in Washington, D.C., in October, almost 10 years to the day after the group Promise Keepers conducted one of the largest rallies in the city's history.
Organizers say the 2007 "Stand in the Gap" (SITG) rally will differ from the 1997 gathering of the same name sponsored by the non-denominational Promise Keepers. The 2007 event, sponsored by the National Coalition of Men's Ministries is expected to attract about a fourth of the crowd that gathered in 1997 and will focus on "interactive elements" rather than Christian speakers and bands.
The Promise Keepers drew more than one million men to the National Mall on Oct. 4, 1997. Organizers of the 2007 event were able to obtain a permit for only 250,000 due to portions of the Mall being closed for repair in the fall.
This year's event will focus on "addressing ... the full scale assault on the masculine identity in western culture ... the decline of the positive moral and spiritual influence of biblically faithful men and ... the crying need for spiritual fathers in our homes, churches and communities," according to the National Coalition of Men's Ministries.
Although Promise Keepers is not officially involved in organizing or sponsoring the event, several of the coordinators have ties to it. Marty Granger, the chairman and executive director of the 2007 event, was an event manager for Promise Keepers in the 1990s.
Dr. Rink Kingham, currently the chairman of the National Coalition of Men's Ministries, was among the original founders of Promise Keepers.
Granger told reporters at a news conference announcing the event that it would encourage men to "return to the place in their spiritual life where they relate with God ... remember God's character as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ ... renew our resolve to live as image bearers ... [and] rebuild broken places in our personal lives."
"Most men, frankly, are under-encouraged," Granger said. While he was protective of specific details, Granger said the event would consist of "interactive elements" that he hopes will appeal to four generations of men. A dozen speakers and a handful of musicians will be featured.
The rally is expected to cost $2.5 million, which Granger said would be raised through individual donations, grants from religious foundations and through the sale of commemorative shirts and other products.
The 1997 gathering created a financial strain on Promise Keepers, leading the group to announce in 1998 that it would lay off its entire paid staff.
While the group still holds rallies across the country every year, attendance at the events has dropped, and the group is in a "restructuring" phase, according to Kingham, a former Promise Keepers vice president.
Feminist groups accuse organizers of the Stand in the Gap rally of promoting a misogynist world view and catering to "religious political extremists."
In a 1997 statement, the National Organization for Women said feminists "will not be fooled by the many recent public disclaimers about this feel-good form of male supremacy with its dangerous political potential."
"Promise Keepers do not encourage a relationship of equals in a marriage," NOW stated. "Rather, they call for men to 'take' their role as the leader in the family."
NOW believes the rallies include "unbelievable double-talk. Honor your wife, but be sure you're the head of the household. Seek racial 'reconciliation' with hugs and tears among the biblically correct but ignore racial injustice when it comes to housing, education, jobs."
Kingham, the president of the National Coalition of Men's Ministries and an SITG 2007 organizer, said the October rally would be non-political, although it will encourage men to "stand up and be counted" and to get involved in community activities, including politics.
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