[SLIDESHOW=42824]ST. LOUIS (BP) — The Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting drew 7,321 messengers to St. Louis June 14-15 from the nation’s 46,000-plus Southern Baptist churches. The unofficial total is 35 percent above last year’s 5,407 messengers in Columbus, Ohio.
When registered guests, exhibitors and others are included, the count of those at the SBC annual meeting rose to 11,581 as of Wednesday morning.
SBC registration secretary Jim Wells said the results were higher than his pre-annual meeting estimate.
“I thought we’d have between 6,000 and 7,000,” he said. “7,321 is very good. The location being very accessible and the election year made a difference.”
Missouri churches turned out in force in St. Louis, the first time the SBC annual meeting has met in their state since 2002; their 887 messengers dwarfed their 2015 total of 182 in Columbus and represented the largest single contingent of messengers.
The state with the next largest number was Tennessee at 824, with Illinois coming in third at 533. Guam and the Virgin Islands sent 1 messenger each.
Official numbers will be released later in June; the state-by-state numbers do not include guests or children.
Next year, with the convention returning to Phoenix, Wells said he expects the registration to dip because of the location being out of driving distance for messengers, guessing at a registration total of just below 5,000.
The unofficial messenger registration numbers by states and U.S. territories are as follows: Alabama, 371; Alaska, 19; Arizona, 33; Arkansas, 357; California, 115; Colorado, 46; Connecticut, 4; Delaware, 5; Florida, 353; Georgia, 394; Guam, 1; Hawaii, 11; Idaho, 4; Illinois, 533; Indiana, 146; Iowa, 26; Kansas, 81; Kentucky, 477; Louisiana, 237; Maryland, 69; Massachusetts, 12; Michigan, 46; Minnesota, 3; Mississippi, 318; Missouri, 887; Montana, 10; Nebraska, 6; Nevada, 43; New Hampshire, 5; New Jersey, 28; New Mexico, 34; New York, 28; North Carolina, 397; Ohio, 138; Oklahoma, 212; Oregon, 5; Pennsylvania, 37; Puerto Rico, 5; South Carolina, 193; South Dakota, 14; Tennessee, 824; Texas, 487; Utah, 15; Vermont, 7; Virgin Islands, 1; Virginia, 218; Washington, 13; Washington, D.C., 16; West Virginia, 36; Wisconsin, 13; Wyoming, 9. There were 3 messengers who were approved through the credentials process but were unaffiliated with a state convention.
Wells was first elected registration secretary in 2002 and was re-elected to another term June 14. He is a retired director of missions and denominational worker and a member of Crossway Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo.