Denver, Colo. -- Bill McCartney, president and founder of Promise Keepers, has resigned his post from the international ministry to spend more time with his family and care for his wife, Lyndi, who is battling a severe respiratory illness. The resignation was effective Oct. 1 the same day Promise Keepers announced that Thomas S. Fortson Jr. is its newest president and CEO.
Fortson, who previously served as the organization's executive vice president of administration and operations, succeeds Promise Keepers founder Bill McCartney.
Fortson was elected unanimously by the board of trustees, Promise Keepers said. Fortson said he plans to increase the organization's reach in the U.S. and throughout the world.
"If I could paint a big picture of where I think PK needs to go, it's to build on our foundation in the US and to reach the world," a news release quoted Fortson saying. "That's our vision -- men transformed worldwide. It may take a little time to get there, but God's heart is for the world and that's where He's called us."
Before joining PK, Fortson spent many years in corporate America, serving as an administrator at General Motors Corporation in Detroit and as the vice president of human resources at Edwards Baking Company in Atlanta.
Board chairman Alonzo Short said that Fortson has guided Promise Keepers through touch economic times.
"Tom Fortson has managed the operation of Promise Keepers since 1996, through challenging times and multiple changes, and we stand strong as a ministry today, thanks in large part to his steady hand," Short said, according to the release.
Fortson received his doctorate in administration and higher education from Michigan State University. He currently serves on the board of trustees of the Moody Bible Institute and Carver Foreign Missions. In addition, he is a motivational speaker and speaks regularly for Campus Crusade for Christ Family Life Seminars with his wife, Toni. They are the parents of three adult children.
Short said McCartney's contributions to the ministry will not be forgotten. Since its 1990 inception, the organization has reached more than five million men.
"Bill let the board know in the most loving way that his time at the helm was ending," Short said. "But he will always be the founder, and we expect to solicit his advice, counsel and expressions of love. Coach Mac has enabled millions of men to find their identity in Christ and embrace true manhood, which has equipped them to be better husbands, fathers, and church and community leaders."
McCartney, head football coach at the University of Colorado when he founded Promise Keepers, quit his coaching post in 1994 to concentrate full-time on his burgeoning ministry. The success of Promise Keepers made headlines throughout most of the 1990s, capped by its 1997 Stand in the Gap rally, which drew an estimated 1 million men to the nation's capitol.
Despite a budget that has dropped 77 percent since 1997, primarily because of the elimination of rally admission, ministry officials say attendance has stabilized in recent years.
Short, citing the repercussions of Sept. 11 on the American psyche, said the need for Promise Keepers has never been greater, as personal fear and anxiety seem to be at an all-time high.
"Beyond that, the pressures on men are relentless; the stress on families is intense," the retired general said. "Real men matter, and men of integrity will make the difference in our society. Promise Keepers intends to continue to be there to help encourage, empower and equip them in that challenge."
The most immediate concern is Promise Keeper's 2004 conference season, which is expected to visit 17 cities with the theme "Uprising: The Revolution of a Man's Soul."