FRESNO—Plans still are underway to have a 2020 California Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting. However, the meeting’s look and feel will change dramatically because of COVID-19.
The Committee on Convention Operations met in late June and voted to move forward with a one-day (two sessions) schedule for the gathering, instead of a two-day (three sessions) traditional event. Also, the committee decided that no auxiliary meetings, meal functions or exhibits would be allowed. Also, childcare will not be available.
The CSBC annual meeting is scheduled Tuesday, Oct. 27 at Clovis Hills Community Church, Clovis, from 12:30-7:30 p.m. with a break for dinner.
Juan “Tito” Villegas, chairman of the Committee on Convention Operations, which is responsible for the annual meeting order of business, said the decision was based on “the coronavirus pandemic and the protocols in place such as social distancing and wearing masks.”
Villegas said the one-day schedule was chosen because it “seemed the most efficient and would allow most messengers to only have a one-night hotel stay.”
Many California Southern Baptists, according to Villegas, could “leave home and get to the venue for an afternoon start and possibly return home after the evening session. Those whose distance was greater might only have to stay in a hotel one night.”
Villegas said social distancing was a “primary factor” in the decision to cancel auxiliary functions at the Convention. “With having to observe social distancing, other areas of the church traditionally used for auxiliary meetings, meals and exhibits, could be used as overflow spaces to accommodate the maximum number of messengers.”
Villegas said the one-day event will allow messengers time to conduct business such as elect officers, CSBC institution board members, and Convention committee members; approve a 2021 CSBC operating budget; and consider resolutions, CSBC Constitution and Bylaws amendments, and miscellaneous business.
The schedule, according to Villegas, also will allow “for celebration about the good things CSBC churches are accomplishing, even during a difficult time like COVID-19.”
He said he was particularly excited about a new “IMB Partnership with East Asia that will be unveiled at the meeting.”
Villegas warned, “There still is the possibility the meeting could be canceled. The State of California may not allow large gatherings which would prohibit us from meeting. However, our committee doesn't have the authority to make that call. The (CSBC) Executive Board would have to make that decision.”
He noted the final decision would be made by the end of September giving “those who made overnight reservations ample time to cancel hotel stays without penalty.”
The CSBC staff, according to Villegas, has sought legal counsel about the annual meeting. Pete Ramirez, CSBC associate executive director, said neither the CSBC Constitution nor Bylaws, expressly address a situation like the coronavirus pandemic related to the annual meeting.
If CSBC were not able to conduct an annual meeting, Ramirez said, “Legal counsel has given us direction in what to do. We would follow much the same pattern as the Southern Baptist Convention did in canceling its 2020 annual meeting.”
If there was no CSBC annual meeting in 2020, officers of the Convention would remain in office until their successors are elected at a next annual meeting. That also would be the scenario for CSBC committee members and board members for each of the CSBC entities – Executive Board, The Baptist Foundation of California and California Baptist University.
The 2021 operating budget could be approved by the CSBC Executive Board which has "ad interim" authority specified in both the CSBC Constitution and Bylaws.
A final decision about and in-person annual meeting will be made in late September, Villegas said. “It all will hinge on mandates from the State of California. I’m praying that COVID has eased by then and we are able to proceed with the one-day annual meeting.”