Even though the SBC is the largest convention of churches in world, personal relationships are key when it comes to our cooperative work. First, our relationships with Jesus Christ and, second, our relationship with one another.
Each year, the SBC annual meeting gives us an opportunity to renew those relationships face to face. Whether it’s spending time with pastors and church leaders who serve in other parts of the country, talking with convention entity leaders or meeting new friends in the exhibit hall, the annual meeting is all about relationships.
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the meeting in many ways, even leading to the cancellation of the 2020 meeting.
In addition, the 2022 meeting’s placement in California has caused some to ask about the distance, cost and purpose related to the rotation of the meeting’s location.
Why Anaheim in 2022?
Messengers to the SBC Annual Meeting approve host cities
At the June 2016 meeting of the SBC Executive Committee, the members of the EC voted to award the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting to the City of Anaheim. Steve Swofford, chairman of the Convention Arrangements workgroup, made the recommendation to messengers to the 2016 SBC Annual Meeting in St. Louis. This recommendation was approved by the messengers (SBC Annual, page 67) without opposition.
In awarding the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting to the City of Anaheim, messengers followed a time-honored tradition of moving the annual meeting to different regions of the country in the spirit of showcasing how God is moving in and through Southern Baptists in a particular area.
Looking ahead, messengers have approved Charlotte, N.C. for the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting, Indianapolis for the 2024 SBC Annual Meeting, Dallas for the 2025 SBC Annual Meeting and Orlando for the 2026 meeting.
How is a meeting site changed?
Under Article XI of the SBC Constitution, there are only two ways for the annual meeting to be relocated.
The first way is for the Executive Committee to make the change if the “entertaining city withdraws its invitation or is unable to fulfill its commitments.”
The second way is for the Convention officers, the Executive Committee and the executive heads of the Convention’s boards and institutions to act as a body and cancel the regular meeting or change the place of the meeting “in case of a grave emergency.”
At this time, the city of Anaheim has not indicated it has any plans to withdraw from its contract due to the COVID pandemic or COVID-related restrictions. In fact, the Anaheim Convention Center Calendar of Events is loaded with events on an almost daily basis.
What about COVID-19 guidelines?
COVID-19 continues to be a struggle for event organizers across the country. Thankfully, local officials in Orange County have hosted and continue to host events as large as, and even larger than, Southern Baptists’ expected gathering in June. Guidelines also continue to change as cases rise and fall. In 2021, the SBC meeting’s COVID-19 guidelines continued to change as the event approached. Guidelines will likely change between now and June, Baptist Press will communicate those as the event approaches. For an overview of current guidelines, please visit the city’s website.
More about California
The 2022 Annual Meeting will be just the fifth meeting west of the Rockies in more than 30 years. Traveling to the West Coast roughly once every six years is far from the burden many of those out West endure to participate the other five years. In fact, it has been more than 40 years since the meeting was held in California.
Finally, California – the most populous state in America – is the largest state convention in the SBC outside of the South. There are nearly 1,800 Southern Baptist churches in California with more than 400,000 members.
Reaching California with the Gospel has long been a part of the strategic mission of Southern Baptists. This was in fact part of the impetus for placing what is now Gateway Seminary in California when it was founded in 1944.
Hosting the annual meeting in different locations allows Southern Baptists to see how God is at work in different regions and cities across the United States.