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Thousands of Promise Keepers to descend on Washington

October 2, 1997
Web posted at: 11:38 a.m. EDT (1538 GMT)
Man waving hand at rally

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Water-bubblers, first-aid tents, portable toilets and 12 giant screens are sprouting up around the National Mall to accommodate an expected half-million Christian men at Saturday's Promise Keepers prayer meeting.

"Everything is going along as scheduled," said Maj. James McLaughlin, a spokesman for the U.S. Park Police. The Promise Keepers have made plans well in advance and have shared them with police and local officials, he said.

Officials say the "Stand in the Gap" rally could be the capital's largest since Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan's Million Man March in October 1995, which by some estimates drew more than 800,000 mostly African-American men.

TIME Magazine: The Promise Keepers

The six-hour event is to begin at noon. To accommodate it, subways will run four extra hours, some 1,500 portable toilets will be in place and churches will open their doors for the extra crowds. Cheryl Johnson, spokeswoman for the Washington area Metro rail service, said Promise Keepers has paid $60,000 to have the system open four hours early, at 4 a.m.

Leaders preach reconciliation

Promise Keepers is out to make history -- as its promotional materials attest -- by urging all Christian men to come to the nation's capital "as no other group has ever come."

stadium

Like the Million Man March, also held on the Mall, "Stand in the Gap" is aimed at men. Echoing Farrakhan's call for a day of atonement, the Promise Keepers are participating to confess their sins and take responsibility for their families.

"There's a decline in the family. The guys are not home to be with the kids," said one Promise Keeper.

Because the Million Man March participants were predominantly black, Farrakhan preached against integrating into "white supremacy." In contrast, Promise Keepers leader Bill McCartney plans to speak this weekend of racial reconciliation.

Some question group's agenda

Like Farrakhan, leaders of Promise Keepers have been attacked by those who say their message masks a sinister political agenda.

"They don't just want to be responsible. They want men to be the leaders, not just of the church but of their families, of their government, of the whole culture," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

Promise Keepers steer clear of politics at their assemblies. But when it comes to the family, Promise Keeper Bill Townshend knows who is in charge: "The spiritual leader is the man," he says, "because that's the way the Bible talks about it."

Promise Keepers are having 1 million Bibles delivered for the rally that can be picked up for free.

Correspondent Jonathan Karl contributed to this report.

 
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