INDIANAPOLIS (BP)–The Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting will convene in Nashville, Tenn., in 2013 and 2019 and in Baltimore, Md., in 2014, according to recommendations approved by messengers June 10 in Indianapolis.
Convention manager R. Clark Logan Jr. said Nashville was recommended because Baptist history has been uniquely intertwined with the city from the early days of the Baptist Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources).
“Our Southern Baptist family loves Nashville,” Logan told Baptist Press. “Our exhibitors and entities have told us of their love for Nashville — as well messengers. The 2005 Nashville convention was the highest attended meeting in the last eight years.”
Morris H. Chapman, president of the Executive Committee, said, “Though the Southern Baptist Convention is an intentionally decentralized organization, Nashville is home to the Executive Committee and two of our entities, LifeWay Christian Resources and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. When our convention last met in Nashville, our messengers and guests enjoyed the warm southern hospitality Nashville is known for.”
Nashville is located within a 650-mile radius of half of the U.S. population, and the city is in the midst of a residential, commercial and cultural growth spurt, city leaders say. The Music City Center, a $600-million new convention venue and convention hotel, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2012.
“The city of Nashville has given us the opportunity to sign the first contract with the new convention center, and we would love to show our support to Southern Baptists’ hometown by committing to two meeting dates and by signing the first contract with Nashville,” Logan said. He added that the city showed its commitment not only by giving favorable terms to the convention for 2013, but also by locking in the same financial considerations for 2019.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean expressed enthusiasm for the messengers’ vote to return to Tennessee.
“This decision by the Southern Baptist Convention validates the main reason we are building the Music City Center, that with more convention space Nashville will attract larger conventions and conventions that have previously been held here but have outgrown our existing center,” Dean said.
Butch Spyridon, president of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau, said, “It’s only fitting that a local organization be the first to commit to the new center. The SBC supported the city’s effort to build the arena and they came. They have supported the MCC and now they are coming back — twice. God bless the Southern Baptists.”
Chapman said he is delighted that Southern Baptists will be among the first groups to use the new Music City Center facilities, which will be located in the heart of downtown.
The convention planning team recommended Baltimore, Logan said, because they thought it had been too long since an annual meeting was held in a city with a truly East Coast location.
“The city of Baltimore is very excited about the possibility of hosting, as they have rolled out the red carpet in their initial proposal,” Logan said. “They are in the process of opening a new convention hotel, and it is a wonderful convention city that our Southern Baptist family will love visiting.”
Logan noted a contingency plan for Nashville if work on the Music City Center might fall behind schedule.
“The cities of Baltimore and Nashville have a great working relationship, and if for some reason the convention center in Nashville does not stay on schedule through 2010, Baltimore is holding dates for the SBC in 2013 and is willing to swap years with Nashville,” Logan said.
Following are locations and dates for upcoming annual meetings of the Southern Baptist Convention:
— Louisville, Ky., June 23-24, 2009
— Orlando, Fla., June 15-16, 2010
— Phoenix June 14-15, 2011
— New Orleans June 19-20, 2012
— Nashville, Tenn., June 18-19, 2013
— Baltimore, Md., June 10-11, 2014
— Nashville, Tenn., June 18-19, 2019
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.