A men-only ministry embraced women and united with Jews on Saturday at a Dallas megachurch.
The Promise Keepers event, held at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in South Dallas, drew at least 850 people and was the first time women in the Dallas-Fort Worth area were invited to a conference organized by the world's largest Christian men's ministry.
Since last year, Promise Keepers began opening its conferences to women, largely because women are increasingly the head of the family in single-parent households, the group explained. So far, there have only been a handful of U.S. cities that have hosted PK events that include women.
"Igniting Transformation [Conference] is about a revolution of the Word of God," explained Coach Bill McCartney, the founder of the ministry who recently came back from retirement to serve as chairman of the Board of Directors. "We realized the time had come for Promise Keepers to expand its vision beyond ministry to just men."
The conference's theme was taken from Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Igniting Transformation conferences are designed to address existing divisions – racial, denominational, economic, and now gender lines – within the church.
Based on that theme, the Dallas event partly focused on reconciling Christians and Jews. Pastor Aaron Fruh of Knollwood Church in Mobile, Ala., thanked Christians for accepting Jews into their family. Fruh is a Jewish believer and his grandmother was the first in his family to accept Jesus Christ as her savior.
"As a believing Jew, I cannot think of a higher honor than you, my brothers and sisters, to wear a yellow star, an anti-Semitic patch Hitler made the Jews wear for easy recognition during the Holocaust," said Fruh.
As a symbol of unity, the Jewish pastor placed a yellow star on Promise Keepers' vice chairman and president Dr. Raleigh Washington's shirt. Washington, in turn, urged Christian attendees to wear the yellow star as a symbol of standing with the Jewish people as buckets of the stars were passed around.
Pastor Tony Evans, whose church hosted the event, addressed the issue of economics and social engagement. He shared about a program his church launched five years ago called the National Church Adopt-A-School Initiative. The program encourages churches or faith-based organizations to adopt a public school and provide mentoring, tutoring, character education, sports, and family support services to the students.
Evans notes that 70 percent of the students in South Dallas area are born into households without a male father figure.
"After reading it in Scripture, I decided to take seriously seeking the welfare of the city," said Evans. "If every church would reach out to an at-risk, high-risk student, we could get every school adopted, starting with urban schools."
He added, "We don't do just good things, we do good works so it affects people's eternity."
Currently, churches connected to the program work with about 70 public schools in the Dallas and Forth Worth area.
Since 1990, Promise Keepers has reached more than 6 million men through its conferences. In recent years, however, the ministry has struggled with declining numbers of attendees. As a result, the world's largest men's ministry has reduced the number of large-scale, stadium events it holds each year and replaced them with smaller local church events.
Last July, Promise Keepers opened its door to women for the first time during its 20th anniversary event in Boulder, Colo.