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OPINION

OFFICIAL TALLY: SBC registration 4,852

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--SBC registration secretary Jim Wells has released official registration figures for the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix.
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A total of 4,852 messengers were sent by 2,158 churches from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Only North Dakota and Rhode Island had no registered messengers.

The registered messenger count was down 56.19 percent -- from 2010's 11,075 messengers sent to Orlando by 4,466 congregations -- and was the lowest-attended annual meeting in 67 years.

SBC President Bryant Wright said at the time that the quality of the meeting should not be judged on numbers alone.

"I do believe it could prove to be the most spiritually significant convention over the last 50 years," said Wright, who was re-elected to a second one-year term during the Phoenix gathering. Wright pointed to the sluggish economy and to the travel time from most SBC churches as possible reasons for the low attendance at the sessions which gave special focus to unengaged people groups and church planting across North America.

The data from 770 messengers who provided additional information during the registration process showed that individuals 50 and older accounted for more than 68 percent of the registered attendance.

Messengers ages 18-29 accounted for 4.29 percent of the total; ages 30-34, 4.81 percent; ages 35-39, 7.14 percent; ages 40-44, 7.66 percent; ages 45-49, 7.66 percent; ages 50-54, 17.14 percent; ages 55-59, 15.32 percent; ages 60 and over, 35.97 percent.

Tennessee had the largest number of messengers, 389, at the June 14-15 meeting in the Phoenix Convention Center, accounting for 8.02 percent of the registration total. A total of 156 Tennessee Baptist congregations sent messengers.

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The next four leading states in messenger count were Georgia, 360 (7.42 percent of the total) from 168 churches; Texas, 344 (7.09 percent of the total) from 155 churches; North Carolina, 336 (6.92 percent of the total) from 146 churches; and Alabama, 245 (5.05 percent of the total) from 115 churches.

Official registration numbers follow: Alaska, 5; Alabama, 115; Arkansas, 72; Arizona, 112; California, 100; Colorado, 23; Connecticut, 1; District of Columbia, 2; Delaware, 1; Florida, 95; Georgia, 168; Hawaii, 7; Iowa, 4; Idaho, 8; Illinois, 43; Indiana, 36; Kansas, 25; Kentucky, 114; Louisiana, 78; Massachusetts, 3; Maryland, 28; Maine, 1; Michigan, 14; Minnesota, 3; Missouri, 80; Mississippi, 103; Montana, 5; North Carolina, 146; Nebraska, 1; New Hampshire, 1; New Jersey, 7; New Mexico, 38; Nevada, 32; New York, 7; Ohio, 43; Oklahoma, 69; Oregon, 4; Pennsylvania, 12; Puerto Rico, 2; South Carolina, 106; South Dakota, 1; Tennessee, 156; Texas, 155; Utah, 10; Virginia, 86; Vermont, 1; Washington, 12; Wisconsin, 2; West Virginia, 12; and Wyoming, 9.

By gender, 62.43 percent of the messengers were male, 37.57 percent female.

By vocation, according to the data supplied by the messengers responding to the survey, 43.64 percent were senior pastors; 9.09 percent were homemakers; 11.69 percent were other church staff; 5.19 percent worked in associational missions; 4.94 percent were state convention, entity or institution staff members; 1.04 percent were seminary students; 2.47 percent were involved in North American or international missions; 1.43 percent were other denominational employees; 1.30 percent worked in evangelism; and 19.22 percent listed "other."

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For 112 of the responding messengers, or 14.55 percent of the total, the convention in Phoenix was their first SBC annual meeting; 217 had attended an SBC meeting five times or less (28.18 percent); 149 had attended six to 10 times (19.35 percent); and 292 had attended 11 or more times (37.92 percent).

In traveling to Phoenix, 73.90 percent of the messengers came by plane, 23.90 percent by car. In terms of expenditures to attend the annual meeting, 24 estimated they would be spending under $100 (3.12 percent); 30 estimated $100-299 (3.90 percent); 78 estimated $300-599 (10.13 percent); 148 estimated $600-999 (19.22 percent); 176 estimated $1,000-1,499 (22.86 percent); 195 estimated $1,500-1,999 (25.32 percent); and 119 estimated $2,000 or more (15.45 percent).

Of the 770 messengers who provided the additional information at registration, 268 said no other family members were with them in Phoenix (34.81 percent); 403 brought one family member (52.34 percent); 80 brought two to four family members (10.39 percent); and 19 brought five or more family members (2.47 percent).

Wells, who was unable to attend the Phoenix meeting because he is undergoing cancer treatments, expressed deep gratitude for those who made the registration process a success in spite of his absence.

"I think I'm the first registration secretary ever elected in absentia," Wells joked of his re-election to serve as registration secretary at next year's annual meeting in New Orleans.

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"The process went well. I spent a lot of time on the phone and in email. I had a great team of people. John Yeats did an admirable job, and the Tellers and Credentials committees did great work. My registration people and technology team did a fabulous job.

"I'm recuperating from my fourth regimen of treatment. I was back in the hospital last week for that, and it seemed to go OK. I'm doing all right," Wells added. "I want to thank the hundreds of people who have prayed for me. I don't take that lightly."

Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor and senior writer Mark Kelly.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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