As many as 10,000 delegates have begun gathering in the Valley for the this year’s national gathering of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. It is the first time Arizona has hosted the annual event.
"Kingdom First — Exalt the King, Expand His Kingdom" is the theme of the convention, which once every five years is held outside of the Deep South, considered the heart of the church membership.
While the primary business will be Tuesday and Wednesday at Phoenix Civic Plaza, many Southern Baptist congregations in the area have been building for a historic gathering with "Crossover Arizona," a multitude of events, rallies, block parties, and outreach activities to build the spirit and evangelize for Christ.
"In a number of places, they are doing prayer walks where people simply walk through neighborhoods and pray for the homes and businesses as they pass by," said Elizabeth Young, Arizona Southern Baptist Convention director of communications.
The meeting will bring together delegates — also called messengers — from the 16.2 million-member denomination of 42,775 churches, including about 450 in Arizona. About 600 volunteers are being recruited to help as ushers or in registration. Anyone may attend the meetings as observers, Young said.
A 1 1 /2-day pastors conference begins at 6 p.m. Sunday and runs through Monday. The convention’s warm-up event will be "The Kingdom Family Rally" Monday. Five sessions, led by convention president Jack Graham, will be Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Baptists can expect picketers for the fourth consecutive year from Soulforce, a national organizational that opposes the church’s stand against homosexuality.
For more information on the convention, visitwww.sbcannualmeeting.org .