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EC to consider 2008 convention in New Orleans

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)–A motion calling for the relocation of the 2008 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention to hurricane-stricken New Orleans was referred to the SBC Executive Committee, although one of its staff members expressed several concerns about its feasibility.

The motion, proposed by David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans, called for the relocation because New Orleans is a city “ripe for the Gospel,” one where Southern Baptists could “dramatically change” the future.

“We need the help of God’s people,” Crosby said in a statement from the floor. “It is an opportune moment….

“We didn’t know a year ago that Katrina was going to come and devastate this historic city,” Crosby said, “but we now know what has happened and we know the opportunity we have.” Going to New Orleans in 2008 “is very important as opposed to going later,” he said. “I believe this city is ripe for the Gospel. I believe we have an opportunity as Southern Baptists to go in there, preach the Gospel, do good deeds of kindness and love and dramatically change the future of a major American city.”

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The motion was addressed by Jack Wilkerson, vice president of business and finance for the Executive Committee.

Wilkerson said that while he could “understand the heart of my brother Crosby” and “the need that is on his heart today,” the motion carried with it some concerns, namely the financial and ethical obligations of the Executive Committee to fulfill its previous commitment to the city of Indianapolis for 2008.

Noting that the Executive Committee usually settles on annual meeting sites three to four years in advance in order to contract with major hotels, Wilkerson said three major contracts have been signed with the city of Indianapolis, with a fourth currently pending. Breaking the contracts, Wilkerson said, would cost the convention “somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000.”

“I think personally that money could be better used to help the people of New Orleans and not pay cancellation fees should we be required to do that,” Wilkerson said.

In addition, Wilkerson said that he fears that the city would not be in adequate condition in 2008 to host SBC messengers.

“We’ve done a cursory look based on the understanding of this motion, and we’ve looked at the convention center that has just opened in New Orleans,” Wilkerson said. “The Superdome is not open currently, there is a major hotel that we’ve used that is not currently open, and there are some holes in the infrastructure. I say all that to say that we could not guarantee you at this time that we could house you, feed you or properly protect you by 2008.”

Messengers voted to refer the motion to the Executive Committee, which will make its recommendation at the SBC’s 2007 annual meeting in San Antonio.
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