The California Southern Baptist Convention Executive Board voted Sept. 10 to cancel the 2020 CSBC Annual Meeting because of COVID-19.
The Board also voted to produce a webcast to premiere Tuesday, Oct. 27 to celebrate achievements of California Southern Baptists since October 2019. The video presentation(s) will remain online after its premiere.
The Executive Board voted unanimously to cancel the annual gathering as recommended by the Committee on Convention Operations, the CSBC elected body responsible for planning the annual gathering.
This is the only time in the 80-year history of the organization to not hold an annual meeting. The gathering was slated Oct. 27-28 at Clovis Hills Community Church in Clovis.
The recommendation to cancel the meeting noted that COCO had “monitored the COVID situation since early May” and with no signs from the State of California to allow large gatherings and with the continued spread of coronavirus, voted Aug. 20 to recommend cancellation of the event.
Since then State officials have imposed more rigid guidelines on counties to move through tiered stages for reopening. As of Sept. 10, Fresno County, where the meeting would have been held, is in the “purple” tier with a risk level defined as “widespread.”
Neither the CSBC Constitution nor Bylaws address the possibility of cancelling an annual meeting. However, legal counsel advised that the Executive Board has authority to make the decision since the Board is the Convention “ad interim” as noted in Article VI, Section 1 of the CSBC Constitution. The governing document gives the Board “authority to act for the Convention between its sessions except that it cannot impose its will upon the Convention by contravening any action of the Convention taken at its regular session.”
Pete Ramirez, CSBC associate executive director, shared results of a survey of CSBC pastors which showed the group evenly divided on the issue of an in-person meeting. He added the “overwhelming majority, more than 90 percent, responded they would be willing to watch an online webcast.”
CSBC Executive Director Bill Agee, said, “I’d much rather meet and fellowship with other California Southern Baptists while sharing the great things God has done in and through our churches and Convention this year, but it’s just not feasible.”
Shawn Beaty, senior pastor of Clovis Hills Community Church in Clovis, and CSBC president, said, “I think it is better to be safe rather than sorry.” He added he wasn’t sure “how well the event would be attended, regardless of the survey results.
“Our national entity (the SBC) had to do the same thing, as have several other state Baptist conventions.” He vowed that California Southern Baptist leaders would “do everything we can to have some kind of official business meeting next year.”
He noted Convention leaders (officers, Executive Board and COCO) “held out” hoping to conduct an in-person meeting. “It’s impossible now to do anything else for this year, but we have more than a year to plan and research alternate ways to conduct our meeting if, for some reason, and God forbid, we can’t be in the same room in 2021.”