Ridgecrest — Preparing to Celebrate 100 Years!
At the dawn of the 20th century, B.W. Spillman pondered the idea of developing a place devoted to helping his fellow Southern Baptists draw nearer to God, receive Bible training, and build lasting friendships.
Spillman, who once marked "failure" out of his dictionary to symbolize his belief that a person could accomplish anything God called that person to do, envisioned a location in the mountains where people could escape from everyday life to experience spiritual renewal.
His vision was fulfilled in 1907, and as LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2007, it's clear that Spillman's dream has enriched countless lives. From humble beginnings in a log cabin near Asheville, North Carolina, Ridgecrest has grown into one of the largest Christian conference centers in the United States, with year-round programs held in modern facilities nestled in the rustic Blue Ridge Mountains.
But the true story of Ridgecrest is not about a place; it's about people. "In the past century, more than 2 million people have visited Ridgecrest," said Mike Arrington, vice president of the corporate affairs division of LifeWay Christian Resources, which owns and operates conference centers at Ridgecrest and at Glorieta, New Mexico.
"Thousands of pastors, missionaries, and church staff members can point to a moment at Ridgecrest when they committed their lives to Christ or to vocational ministry," Arrington said. "Marriages have been restored, families strengthened, and numerous laypersons have been trained for ministry."
The original Ridgecrest land, which consisted of 940 acres, was purchased in 1907 for $8,000. The first event was held two years later in a log cabin.
Natural elements took their toll in the early years. A windstorm demolished the first auditorium in 1914, and a fire destroyed two of the main buildings. Then, in 1916, the greatest flood in the history of the area nearly put Ridgecrest out of business.
Despite the setbacks, Ridgecrest experienced tremendous growth over the years. Today, the campus has more than 50,000 square feet of conference space and 471 hotel rooms for adults nestled into 2,200 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. Originally a summer conference center, Ridgecrest has been offering conferences year round since 1969.
Several years ago, LifeWay began a revitalization plan for Ridgecrest and its sister conference center at Glorieta, New Mexico. At Ridgecrest, a 300-seat chapel was completed in 2001, and a 120-room hotel with five conference rooms was added in 2002.
The current $27 million project includes construction of a new 100-room hotel and recreation center at each location and a convention center at Ridgecrest. A major part of the project involves remodeling existing buildings. During the initial phase of renovations, many improvements will be made to the current conference rooms, providing them with the same updated technology planned for newly constructed rooms.
Ridgecrest: A Century of Spiritual Renewal
B&H Publishing Group in June will release a ninety-six-page, full-color coffee table book to commemorate LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center's 100th anniversary. The book will be unveiled to messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention in Greensboro, North Carolina, June 13-14.
Ridgecrest: A Century of Spiritual Renewal traces Ridgecrest's humble beginnings in a log cabin near Asheville, North Carolina, to its current status as one of the largest Christian conference centers in the nation. The book takes readers on a nostalgic journey through time and examines how generations of Southern Baptists and others have had their lives changed in dramatic ways at Ridgecrest.
Chapters include: testimonials from well-known Christian leaders such as Billy Graham and the late Adrian Rogers; a look at the volunteers and donors who make Ridgecrest's work possible; and a section that focuses on camps and programs for young people. Other chapters relive highlights of the past century, examine how Ridgecrest has changed, and anticipate what's in store for the conference center's next one hundred years.
Interspersed throughout the book are stories submitted by people of all ages whose lives have been forever influenced by their time at this grand retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
"Ridgecrest is a place of changed lives, renewed focus, spiritual transformation, and the new birth in Jesus Christ," Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay, wrote in one chapter of the book. "It is far more than just a place or a conference center; it is the home of countless miracles of God. Thank God for Ridgecrest. Thank God for His great work in this place."
Byron Hill, national director of LifeWay's conference centers, said, "We continue to undergo extensive revitalization efforts to ensure Ridgecrest remains an attractive and relevant spiritual haven. But the real story of Ridgecrest has always been — and always will be — about people, who come to this mountain retreat and hear from God."
Ridgecrest: A Century of Spiritual Renewal retails for $19.99 and may be purchased at the LifeWay Christian Store at the Southern Baptist Convention.
Creationism Back in Classrooms
by Erin Roach
Mississippi students are free to discuss creationism in public schools now that Gov. Haley Barbour signed a new state law that says no limits may be placed on teachers and students when addressing the origin of life.
"No local school board, school superintendent or school principal shall prohibit a public school classroom teacher from discussing and answering questions from individual students on the origin of life," the bill, which passed the legislature in March and was signed by Barbour, a Republican, in late April, states.
Local school officials told the Associated Press that they had not previously encountered disputes about what theories could be discussed in class, but they fear the new law is so vague that court challenges are almost certain to arise.
Mike Halford, superintendent of Lowndes County schools in Mississippi, told AP that educators need clarification of what can be discussed in the classroom, especially as other states have fought fierce science curriculum battles.
"We're starting to see lawsuits pop up from this [in other states]," Halford said. "It's just a problem we don't need."
But Casey Luskin, program officer for public policy and legal affairs with Discovery Institute, noted that the law says nothing about creationism or Intelligent Design, and for that matter, students could raise questions in support of philosophical naturalism or atheism.
"This law simply protects the right of teachers to answer students' questions, and I don't see what's so controversial about that," Luskin told Baptist Press. "I think this is a great law. I think it allows both academic freedom for teachers and freedom of inquiry for students."
Appeals Court Tosses Out Lawsuit Against DOMA
by Michael Foust
A federal appeals court panel May 5 dismissed a lawsuit against the federal Defense of Marriage Act, unanimously ruling that two homosexual men who brought the case lacked standing.
The decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is the first-ever ruling concerning DOMA by a federal appellate court. Signed into law in 1996, DOMA prevents the federal government from recognizing "gay marriage" and gives states the option of doing the same. If DOMA is overturned, then all fifty states presumably would be forced to recognize "marriage" between homosexuals. Massachusetts remains the lone state to legalize "gay marriage."
Writing for the court, Judge Ferdinand F. Fernandez said the two homosexual men lack legal standing to file suit DOMA because they have no marriage license.
"Were they to change their residence to Massachusetts, their situation might change, but they have placed nothing before us to suggest that they have gone, or intend to go, to that state," Fernandez wrote.
The lawsuit was brought by the two men, Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer, after they applied for but were denied a marriage license in Orange County, California. They sued in federal court, arguing that both the California law and the Defense of Marriage Act violate the U.S. Constitution. A federal judge in June 2005 ruled against the two men, and they appealed to the Ninth Circuit.
Another Defeat for Life
Andrea Clark, whose family fought for her life against a Houston, Texas, hospital's effort to withdraw treatment, died May 7.
Clark, 54, had been in St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital since November with complications from heart surgery. The institution's ethics committee decided April 19 to terminate life support for her in ten days. While Clark depended on a respirator to enable her to breathe, she maintained her brain function and ability to communicate, her family said.
Texas law protected the ethics committee's decision in support of a doctor's determination that treatment for Clark was medically futile.
Members of Clark's family protested the hospital's plan to discontinue treatment. They gained hope Clark would be able to recover when Matthew Lenz, a doctor with privileges at St. Luke's, took medical responsibility for her after a May 2 meeting of a treatment team at the medical facility, but she died within a week.
"We love her so very much, and we are going to miss her terribly," Melanie Childers, Clark's sister, said in an email to ProLifeBlogs.com. "We hope that the battle that we fought for our sister will bring to light and bear witness to the horrible acts committed in the name of ethics in hospitals across the state of Texas."