Southern Baptists gather in largest western-United States meeting since 2003

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By Raegen Hain

June 17, 2022

ANAHEIM, Calif.–Despite expectations of low attendance due to location, Southern Baptists turned out in strong numbers for the 153rd Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif. By the end of the meeting, the total number of registered messengers reached 8,133 messengers, combined with 2,856 guests and 1,554 exhibitors for a total of 12,543 attendees.

Southern Baptists questioned how this year’s number would follow the 25-year-high in attendance at last year’s Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn., but many present in Anaheim found the turnout encouraging.

“I was very reluctant to come here being so far away in Tennessee, but I have been very encouraged by being here,” said Cale Yarbrough, member of Victory Baptist in Mount Juliet, Tenn. “There are still great numbers of people showing up. I think people are getting serious and getting back to the grassroots of the Bible.” 

Messenger registration numbers began the week with 3,057 messengers on Sunday, doubling up to 6,803 by Monday evening, to 8,095 by Tuesday afternoon, and finally reaching 8,133 on Wednesday.

This year marks the fourth time the state of California has hosted the Annual Meeting. It was last held more than 40 years ago in Los Angeles in 1981 with 13,529 messengers in attendance.

Jason Harlin, associate pastor of Victory Baptist in Mount Juliet, Tenn. expressed he’d had concern regarding the location of this year’s convention in California since the majority of churches are located in southern states. The distance, however, only served to underscore Southern Baptists’ duty.

“It means those of us who are here have a bigger responsibility to take a stand and not be afraid of what the world has to say, but to fear what the Lord has to say,” Harlin said.

The 2022 Annual Meeting is the largest held west of the Rocky Mountains since the 2003 Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Ariz.

With expectations of more than 15,000 attendees at the 2023 Annual Meeting, the SBC Executive Committee voted in April of this year to move the meeting to New Orleans, La. as the previous Charlotte, N.C. location no longer met the anticipated capacity needs. The meeting will be held June 13-14, 2023.