Saturday, September 13, 2008

Bill McCartney is Back at Promise Keepers

Promise Keepers is expected to undergo major changes after co-founder Bill McCartney was brought out of retirement to once again head the nearly 20-year-old organization – arguably the most prominent among men's ministries.

McCartney, 68, returned to the helm of the organization, assuming his new role as CEO and Chairman on Monday, five years after having resigned. He also brought back with him former Promise Keepers executive Raleigh Washington to serve as president.

The leadership change comes as attendance has been declining at Promise Keepers events for years. The organization was going through a period of refocus and recalibration in recent years, scaling down the number of stadium-size events it holds annually and adding smaller local church events such as PKAdventure.

Former president and CEO Dr. Tom Fortson, who resigned last weekend, had told The Christian Post earlier that they were "looking for ways to have more impact at a lower cost."

"We will continue to offer a number of our larger arena events; but by offering new programs such as PK Adventure, PK Edge and pastors' workshops, and by incorporating satellite and internet technology, we provide a more robust PK experience that can impact men beyond the arenas," Fortson had said last month.

He noted that few men attend church on Sundays and that churches also struggle to maintain a vibrant men's ministry. Thus, Promise Keepers began placing more emphasis on equipping local pastors to better reach men and "to harness today's technology to reach more men with less," as Fortson stated.

Promise Keepers partnered with Church Communication Network to broadcast the local PKAdventure events this year to other host sites.

"Look at it this way: PK is growing with the marketplace of ideas and today's technology.

Although the conference is important, it's just one of the many ways PK will now be reaching and equipping men worldwide," Fortson further commented to The Christian Post at the time.

Promise Keepers is best known for its large-scale conferences held each year across the country. At its peak in 1996, the organization held 22 stadium conferences and drew 1.1 million men.

While the organization continued to hold almost as many stadium conferences thereafter, attendance dropped. In 2006, some 132,000 participated in the organization's 18 conferences.

The action to bring back McCartney, who had retired in 2003 to care for his ailing wife, was generated by former board chairman Sam Winder, who was retiring.

"It came to the position where he (Winder) felt like what he needed to do is put the ministry in the hands of the founder," Washington explained to The Christian Post. "As he was retiring, he wanted it and the board agreed."

"The coach (McCartney) basically said 'if this is a unanimous decision by the Promise Keepers board of directors, I will follow,'" Washington continued. "In light of that, Tom Fortson did resign."

General counsel Ed O'Brien said Fortson's resignation was voluntary, according to the Rocky Mountain News.

Under its new leadership, Promise Keepers will be rolling out with a fresh new vision and plans over the next several weeks, Washington said.

This year's Promise Keepers events will continue as scheduled.

[By Lillian Kwon - Christian Post Reporter]

Ray Boltz Is Gay And Out Of The Closet

Ray Boltz is gay and tells his coming out story to the Washington Blade.

Boltz, with about 4.5 million LPs, cassettes and CDs sold, never made a splash outside of Christian circles but he never really tried. With a handful of RIAA Gold-certified albums, three Dove Awards from the Gospel Music Association (GMA) and a string of 12 No. 1 hits on Christian radio, Boltz is a household name in evangelical circles. “Thank You,” a sentimental song about a dream in which a Christian thanks the Sunday school teacher who led him to embrace Christ, is his signature song. It was the GMA song of the year in 1990 and has become a staple of Christian funerals. Other Boltz trademarks are “Watch the Lamb,” “The Anchor Holds” and “I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb.”

“I’ve kind of had two identities since I moved to Florida where I kind of had this other life and I’d never merged the two lives. This was the first time I was taking my old life as Ray Boltz, the gospel singer, and merging it with my new life. Emotionally it was kind of a big deal to think about that.” Ray Boltz was tired of living a lie.

He’d gotten to a point nearly three years before where he couldn’t continue down the road his life had gone. His 33-year marriage to ex-wife Carol was, he says, largely a happy one. It produced four children — three daughters and a son who are now between 22 and 32 — but family life and going through the motions of being straight had grown so wearying to Boltz, he was in a serious depression, had been in therapy for years, was on Prozac and other anti-depressants and had been, for a time, suicidal.

Boltz admits to some nervousness, but says ultimately, he isn’t worried. He doesn’t want to get into debates about scripture and has no plans to “go into First Baptist or an Assembly of God church and run in there and say, ‘I’m gay and you need to love me anyway.’” For him, the decision to come out is much more personal. “This is what it really comes down to,” he says. “If this is the way God made me, then this is the way I’m going to live. It’s not like God made me this way and he’ll send me to hell if I am who he created me to be … I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself.”