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Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen
Every set of man was represented in this vast throng, from the well-groomed banker to the North End fisherman with his time-worn clothing. Any racial differences that may have existed were dispelled, as colored and white man, American and foreigner, stood shoulder to shoulder and accepted Christ as their Saviour.1
It was high time that something should be done to bring men and religion into closer relation. Men needed religion and religion needed men. It was getting to be too much the business of women. This movement has done much to redress the lost balance and to restore to the Church the element of masculinity which it sadly needed.2
Do these two descriptions sound vaguely familiar? If you have followed press reports of Promise Keepers rallies, only a few linguistic oddities and the reference to class-based dress seem out of keeping with that movement's image. However, these two quotations date back to 1909 and 1912 respectively, the first referring to a mass meeting during evangelist J. Wilbur Chapman's 1909 Boston Crusade,3 and the second to the Men and Religion Forward Movement of 1911-12.4 They remind us that at the beginning of the twentieth century, as at its end, parachurch movements with a gender-based focus sprang up regularly. This has led various scholars to ponder the similarities and differences between these two periods of social and religious upheaval.
Consider these events of the past decade in Protestant America: in 1988, the newly formed Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood issued its "Danvers Statement" in defense of distinct gender roles and male headship in church and home.5 The following year, another recently formed evangelical organization, Christians for Biblical Equality, issued a counterstatement arguing on exegetical grounds for mutual submission between the sexes and the full use of women's gifts in society, church, and home.6 In 1991, the revivalist, male-focused Promise Keepers movement began with a single gathering of 4,200, but ...