Ridge Haven Report Focuses on Public Role of Women

Colorado Springs, CO (June 12, 1997)--The normally quiet Ridge Haven Committee of Commissioners, which usually deals only with routine business of the denominational conference center, suddenly found itself in an examination of the role of women at conferences. As reported to the floor of the Assembly, the major issue revolved around the wording of the document entitled 'The Ridge Haven Policy on Women Preaching and Teaching in its Camps and Conferences.' The Committee concluded that the issue was essentially semantic. Its unanimous recommendation was that the Board of Directors review the policy paper and that next year's Committee of Commissioners review it, not with a view to changing the basic thrust, but so as to clean up the language. The Committee also noted that the policy contained no references to the Book of Church Order.
According to the document, "The question of women being either invited or allowed to preach or teach in Ridge Haven sponsored camps or conferences being raised both by the presence of the issue generally in the Denomination and specifically by an incident at Ridge Haven prompted by the wife of an invited speaker being given the podium/platform by her husband to address the conference body several sessions in a row, the following is approved as a specific guide to the staff in securing speakers/teachers and those who make inquiry as to the Ridge Haven policy on this matter." The document distinguishes between camps and conferences. The term "camps" refers "to the gathering of male and female teen and pre-teen children for specific teaching, fellowship and other ministry activities." The policy says, "Both male and female speakers/teachers, directors, and musicians may be invited and utilized to lead, informally and/or devotionally instruct, and serve Ridge Haven camps as otherwise described in the camp leaders information. It shall be the usual practice, however, to utilize Ruling or Teaching Elders or those ordained in/for/to ministry to do the formal preaching/teaching of the word in/for/to Ridge Haven camps." "Conference" is "the term that ordinarily refers to the gathering of male and female adults for specific teaching, fellowship, and other ministry activities. . . . Desiring to stress the authority of the word and its formal presentation both as preached and taught in/for/during Ridge Haven Conferences, all conference messages, except those as specifically identified in the following, shall be presented by Ruling or Teaching Elders or males who otherwise have been ordained in/to/for Christian ministry. Women or unordained individuals shall not be invited or permitted to present Ridge Haven conference messages except as identified in the following." Those situations were listed as follows: missions/missionary reports; ministry reports; marriage and family informal presentations; women making/teaching non-expository/informal presentations to women; thematic/topical/professional presentations.
Given as references for this document were three sources of information: A Paper on the Role of Women in the Church, a "not-for-publication paper by Charles Dunahoo, July 10, 1995"; "The Public Preaching of Women," an article by Robert L. Dabney, which apeared in greatly condensed form in The Presbyterian Guardian, February 1976; and The Place of Women in the Church by Donald Macleod.
According to "Mo" Up De Graff's report to the Committee, almost 7,000 people of all ages attended camps and conferences in 1996. Professing faith in Christ at Ridge Haven for the first time were 61 summer campers and 4 winter campers. The 900 acre conference center, located outside of Rosman, NC, hosts many activities not only for children but also for adults which in 1996 included the Love Life Marriage Seminar, the Spring Fling Work Week, the Men's Fishing Tournament, the Springtimers Bible Conference, the Covenant Family Conference (Co-sponsored with Covenant Theological Seminary), the Great American Family Camp Out, and the Keenagers Bible Conference.