Promise Keepers return

October 05, 1997


Staff Writer

Margaret Swacina of Williamsport said she likes the changes she has seen in her husband, Dave, since he got involved in the Promise Keepers' evangelical movement.

"I have seen incredible growth in my husband and I am treated like a queen," said Swacina, 44.

Women's rights groups have been critical of the movement, which gathered hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. They say it advocates male dominance of women.

But women at Tri-State Fellowship, an evangelical free church in Hagerstown, said Sunday that Promise Keepers has had the opposite effect on their relationships.


The 65 men who attended the rally from that church have committed to loving their wives as much as God loves the church, they said.

When men embrace the movement's themes - whether they are husbands, colleagues or lawmakers - women's rights are advanced, said Debbie Steenburg of Hagerstown.

"Promise Keepers, I believe, is the best thing that's ever happened to the women's movement," she said.

Linda Showalter said she resents being portrayed as a doormat and believes that critics don't understand the concept of two people submitting to each other in marriage.

Men who went to the rally agreed.

Quoting one of the speakers at the rally, Donald Shinham, 37, of Hagerstown, said, "Promise Keepers put women in their place and that's on a pedestal and in their hearts."

Matt McIntosh of Hagerstown, who also went to the rally, found it absurd that politically minded activists have accused Promise Keepers of having an ulterior motive.

"What's the hidden agenda with 1.2 million people?" he asked. "The `hidden agenda' is that we're going to be there to help and serve womankind. Ladies, we are going to be servants for you," he said.

Husbands must appreciate the things their wives do to keep the family working, he said.

"If she ain't happy, nobody is happy," McIntosh said, drawing laughs from both men and women in the room.

One woman who declined to be identified said two bad marriages have shaken her faith in men.

But Promise Keepers has given her renewed hope for the future of her four sons and one daughter.

As the men brought back their stories from the rally, several got a little choked up.

Arn Bjorndal said some friends from Alabama didn't have the money to attend the rally, but they prayed and the next day someone gave them the keys to their car.

Bjorndal, of Frederick, Md., said he shared a powerful spiritual experience with men of all walks of life at the rally.

"I learned that not all Christians are Republican. They're not all conservatives," he said.

Greg Houpt, 42, of Cearfoss, organized buses from Hagerstown, but he didn't want to take any credit.

"They came together because God called them to come. You can't explain that," he said.

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