Promise Keepers Gather Smaller, but Dedicated Crowd at Rally

New York Times, May 17, 1998
By Agence-France-Presse

DETROIT -- There was a smaller crowd of men Saturday at a Promise Keepers rally than a year ago, but those attending the conservative Christian group's meeting were as dedicated as ever.

Estimates put attendance at fewer than 40,000, and there were thousands of empty seats.

But Promise Keepers spokesman Steve Chavis said the movement was picking up again after losing members during the past few years.

The movement allows men to stand up for each other, said Chavis. They were there "by the thousands to hear words of encouragement to make them better fathers, better husbands."

Promise Keepers staged a one-day spiritual rally of 500,000 men in Washington in October 1997.

Roger Hurd said he remained convinced of the movement's value. "You get the great, warm feeling you belong to the Lord," he said. "Those who don't show up are missing something."

While women aren't allowed at the rally, they were present behind the scenes.

"We do things to free up our men so they can take part," said Arlys Ross. "In no way does that downgrade me as a woman."

And volunteer Christine Uza credited the movement for giving her a better father. "I thought anything that can change my father was worth something," she said.

But many women who objected to being excluded picketed outside, saying that the group considered women second class citizens.

Lois Brooks was one of those protesting. "I've made decisions jointly, not separately," she said. "I've raised children jointly, not separately."

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