Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) is a document signed by a number of well-known Evangelicals and Roman Catholics. Contained within the document, which attempts to bring ecumenical unity, are some seriously compromising agreements regarding proselytizing and doctrinal distinctions.
Having read the ECT document, we wondered about Promise Keepers with respect to Roman Catholicism. We had heard many rumors about the involvement of Catholics in the Promise Keepers and particularly the impression Catholics might have about the organization.
Assuming that the Pope would not return a phone call, we did the next best thing. We called Cardinal Roger Mahoney at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. We explained that we were interested in the Cardinal’s position on the Promise Keepers.
We were told to contact Father Alfred Burnham, who is the Director of the Ecumenical Office of the Archdiocese. The call to Father Burnham revealed some startling information. We asked if any of his remarks were published. He said the same information was available in the March 31 edition of The Tidings, which is "the Archdiocese paper." We obtained that issue of The Tidings and read the article titled "‘Promise Keepers’ Promises Spiritual Renewal for Men."
The article describes Promise Keepers this way:
Promise Keepers is a basic program of evangelization for men of faith, begun among more fundamentalist and evangelical Christian communities, but now being expanded to include Catholic congregations.
The article reveals that Father Christian Van Liefde, pastor of St. Hillary Church in Pico Rivera, "at the urging of Cardinal Roger Mahony, has studied the feasibility and appropriateness of utilizing Promise Keepers at the Catholic parish level.
The article goes on to state:
While noting the evangelical roots of the program, Father Van Liefde says there is no "doctrinal issue which should cause concern to the Catholic Church."
"Promise Keepers places a very strong emphasis on returning to your own church congregation or parish and becoming an active layman," Father Van Liefde points out. "There is no attempt at proselytizing or drawing men away from their faith to another church."
In a phone interview with Father Van Liefde, we asked about the possibility of proselytizing. How could he be sure there would be no proselytizing? He said the Promise Keepers representatives told him that there would be no proselytizing, "rather just the opposite." He mentioned promise number 5: "A Promise Keeper is committed to supporting the mission of the church by honoring and praying for his pastor, and by actively giving his time and resources." Van Liefde confirmed that proselytizing was discussed with the Promise Keepers representatives, who referred to promise 5 as proof that none would occur and that men would be sent back to their own churches.
The article further indicates that there have been Promise Keepers seminars at the local parish level. One of the seminars was described as having "presentations by local priests."
After describing the national growth of the Promise Keepers, the article reports:
Father Van Liefde, however, is optimistic that Promise Keepers can grow at the parish level as well—and without adversely impacting existing parish programs or finances.
"Rather, the opposite is true," he asserts. "One of the primary promises of the program is to return to one’s local church and become a force for good in the local community. Another is the commitment to financial support of one’s local church. The men are challenged to give generously of their time, treasure and talent to their local church."
Father Van Liefde envisions regular gatherings of small groups of men, perhaps in the parish hall, on a parish or joint parish basis. Such gatherings would follow a large-scale event like the upcoming Coliseum weekend."
At the end of the article is a detailed announcement and encouragement for Catholic men to attend the Promise Keepers Conference at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on May 5 and 6.
There you have it. Promise Keepers and Catholics together. One of our concerns about the Promise Keepers movement is its ecumenicalism. The above is just one example of that.
How about another example? What about the involvement of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons)? By calling Salt Lake City and several temples, wards, and stakes of the Mormon church, we found that, while there is no official position on the Promise Keepers, many Mormon men have participated in the past and will do so at the Wake Up Calls and regional meetings this year. We heard much agreement from Mormon leaders with the seven promises of the Promise Keepers. These Mormon leaders praised the movement and commented on how attendance "has been a life changing experience for some of the Mormon men."
And, yet another example comes from a Council Bluffs, Iowa newspaper article indicating that a Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS) was participating with the Promise Keepers. The article mentioned that the Promise Keepers had given a presentation to the RLDS men. We called their central office in Independence, Missouri and learned that RLDS had no official position on the Promise Keepers. We then called Joe Hanna, the Iowa State RLDS president. Hanna said that the RLDS church in Council Bluffs was "very high" on the Promise Keepers and "would no doubt be going with it." He also said that he had no problems with Promise Keepers.
We then called Bob Watkins, who pastors the RLDS church in Council Bluffs. He said that he was very supportive of the Promise Keepers and that he had "no problem with it at all." Watkins said, "It’s a wonderful program. The men at my church will be participating."
In addition to Promise Keepers and Catholics together, we now have Promise Keepers, Catholics and Mormons together. This seems to be an ecumenicalism of proportions never experienced since the Reformation. There have been single issues, such as abortion, pornography, and prohibition, that have drawn a spectrum of churches together, but none have reached the popularity and ecumenicalism of the Promise Keepers.
We have received reports from other countries indicating that they are beginning to have Promise Keepers meetings as well. Where will it end? Will Promise Keepers attain their goal of 75,000 clergy in Atlanta, GA, and one million men in Washington, DC, in 1996? And then what? And then where? Is this, as some have proclaimed, the greatest move of God since the day of Pentecost? Or, is this part of the last days scenario signaling the Lord’s return?
PAL V3N3 (May-June 1995)