What is the Orthodox position on the Promise Keepers movement? Are Orthodox men allowed to participate?
While there have been no statements, to my knowledge, forbidding Orthodox men from participating in Promise Keepers gatherings, the theological views upon which the movement is based are not exactly Orthodox. I have heard a great deal about this movement—both pro and con—and of late there seems to be a certain amount of negative hype concerning the movement, primarily from Protestant circles.
It is somewhat difficult for me to offer a personal opinion on the program since I have not participated in it. My only contact with the program is the following.
For many years, the non-Orthodox husbands of two of my very good parishioners had been coming every Sunday to Liturgy and participating a great deal in the life of our parish, although not sacramentally of course.
Despite their high level of involvement the two husbands for years made it quite clear that they would never become Orthodox, although they had no problem attending the Orthodox church weekly while never participating in the faith communities of their upbringing.
One weekend the two men attended a Promise Keepers gathering. The following Sunday I asked the men at coffee hour if they had come to any conclusions as a result of their participation. They both said that the one thing they learned is that they should convert to Orthodoxy and that their hesitancy was based on personal stubbornness, which was not setting a good example for their wives and children. The two men enrolled as catechumens, completed their instruction in the Orthodox Faith, and were received into Orthodoxy three years ago. They are extremely faithful members, and their conversions have been a great joy to their families and to our parish community as a whole. They never returned to a Promise Keepers gathering, nor have they spoken of it since.
This was quite interesting, as I had been warned by some people that the two men should be forbidden to attend the gathering.
This, of course, is not a wholesale endorsement of Promise Keepers, by any means. I do believe that the two men, who had for quite some time struggled to discern God’s will, derived some benefit from attending, obviously. In this unusual circumstance, it did serve to enable the two men to clarify their own faith and to come to grips with the fact that, while they were only attending an Orthodox church for years, they had refused to convert.
In no way to I imply that by sending individuals to Promise Keepers they will ultimately convert to Orthodox Christianity. I bring this up only as an anecdote worth noting, even if the results may have been quite contrary to the Promise Keepers movement itself.