PHOENIX (BP) -- The Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting drew 5,018 messengers to Phoenix June 13-14. The unofficial total is 31.6 percent fewer than last year's 7,321 messengers in St. Louis but 164 more than 2011 when the convention last met in Phoenix.
When registered guests, exhibitors and others are included, the count of those at the SBC annual meeting rose to nearly 8,000 as of Wednesday afternoon.
That 2011 total was the smallest messenger count at an annual meeting in more than six decades, when in the throes of World War II, 4,301 messengers gathered in Atlanta in 1944.
Newly elected SBC registration secretary Don Currence, who served as acting secretary throughout the meeting, said this year’s results were in line with estimates.
"With next year being in Dallas and being an election year (for SBC president), we’ll probably be back up around 9,000 messengers," Currence said.
As expected, Arizona Baptist churches turned out for their host-meeting; their 374-messenger total was the second largest of the state delegations. Texas was the highest at 474 messengers.
Attendance followed a general geographic trend of higher attendance from states in the West and lower from everywhere else: California’s 283 dwarfed their 115 total in St. Louis last year, while Alabama's attendance was just 63 percent of last year's delegation.
The unofficial state-by-state messenger registration numbers are as follows: Alaska, 17; Alabama, 234; Arkansas, 175; Arizona, 374; California, 283; Colorado, 48; Connecticut, 2; Washington, D.C., 11; Delaware, 4; Florida, 266; Georgia, 303; Hawaii, 16; Iowa, 12; Idaho, 6; Illinois, 98; Indiana, 55; Kansas, 51; Kentucky, 240; Louisiana, 187; Massachusetts, 10; Maryland, 7; Michigan, 28; Minnesota, 7; Missouri, 242; Mississippi, 141; Montana, 11; North Carolina, 316; Nebraska, 4; New Hampshire, 2; New Jersey, 19; New Mexico, 92; Nevada, 75; New York, 30; Ohio, 77; Oklahoma, 135; Oregon, 12; Pennsylvania, 22; Puerto Rico, 1; South Carolina, 191; South Dakota, 11; Tennessee, 373; Texas, 474; Utah, 21; Virginia, 176; Vermont, 5; Washington, 41; Wisconsin, 15; West Virginia 23; Wyoming, 9. There were 21 messengers who were approved through the credentials process but were unaffiliated with a state convention.
Jim Wells, the outgoing recording secretary, was unable to attend the annual meeting because of illness. His duties were picked up by SBC Recording Secretary John Yeats and various other workers, including Currence.
Official attendance numbers will be released later in June; the state-by-state numbers do not include guests or children.