NEW ORLEANS – Attendance at the 2012 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting June 19-20 tallied 7,868 messengers from the nation’s 45,000 Southern Baptist churches. Official numbers will not be released until later in June. In 2001, the last time Southern Baptists gathered in New Orleans, 9,584 messengers were in attendance.
“We were expecting 8,000 to 8,500,” said Don Currence, acting registration secretary for the SBC, “so it’s about what we thought we’d get with the economy the way it is. There was also a lot of interest because of who we elected as president.”
Messengers June 19 elected Fred Luter Jr., pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, as president of the SBC, marking the first time the convention has had an African American president.
Last year in Phoenix, 4,852 messengers gathered for the lowest attended annual meeting in six decades. This summer’s meeting beat that mark before the opening gavel fell on the first day.
As expected, Louisiana churches turned out in force for the meeting in their backyard; their 943 messengers represented the largest number from any state.
Jessica Barrow from First Baptist Church Longville, La., helps register Timon Keller from Suburban Baptist Church in Granite City, Ill. Keller is registering to be a messenger for the first time at the 155th Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in New Orleans.
Next year, with the convention gathering in Houston, Currence said he personally anticipates another jump in attendance.
The unofficial state-by-state messenger registration numbers are as follows: Alabama, 610; Alaska, 13; Arizona, 49; Arkansas, 248; California, 107; Colorado, 44; Connecticut, 4; Delaware, 1; Florida, 507; Georgia, 644; Hawaii, 9; Idaho, 5; Illinois, 145; Indiana, 91; Iowa, 9; Kansas, 49; Kentucky, 354; Louisiana, 943; Maine, 1; Maryland, 97; Massachusetts, 4; Michigan, 36; Minnesota, 4; Mississippi, 792; Missouri, 210; Montana, 7; Nebraska, 4; North Carolina, 445; Nevada, 34; New Hampshire, 4; New Jersey, 18; New Mexico, 41; New York, 28; Ohio, 95; Oklahoma, 203; Oregon, 1; Pennsylvania, 16; Puerto Rico 4; South Carolina, 335; Tennessee, 668; Texas, 571; Utah, 12; Vermont, 1; Virginia, 253; Washington, 6; Washington, D.C., 14; West Virginia 30; Wisconsin, 9; Wyoming, 10; other, 63.
Jim Wells, the elected registration secretary, was unable to attend the convention due to surgery for cancer. Wells said he expects to make a full recovery and attend next year’s meeting in Houston.
Wells was first elected registration secretary in 2002 and was re-elected to another term June 20. He serves as the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program missionary for strategic partnerships.
Currence is minister of administration at First Baptist Church in Ozark, Mo.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Koonce is a staff writer for The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)