The Southern Baptist Convention officially closed Thursday at noon. But not before a sign-waving "Jesus" encouraged them to become vegetarians and messengers considered everything from America's foreign policy toward Israel to proclaiming the Bible as the only inerrant word of God.
The largest convention in Salt Lake City this year, the event attracted more than 8,500 messengers and their families. Keeping it running smoothly required multiple parliamentarians, hundreds of volunteers, 20-25 Salt Palace security guards and 10 or 11 police officers a day.The law enforcement was never needed, according to the security office. "This was just a really great group of people to deal with," a spokesman said.
Some stories were big news: election of a new president, the statement on a biblically based family, attempts to evangelize Utahns, many of them members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Here's a sampling of other happenings, taken directly from a reporter's notebook:
- Unanimously elected new Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson, who opened his press conference Tuesday by praying for reporters covering the event and their families.
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals "enlisted Jesus" in a vegetarian campaign. A sign-carrying "Jesus" paraded his message outside the convention: "Thou Shalt Not Kill - Go Veg."
- Prior to the opening of the convention, Southern Baptists, including Bill Graham Jr., walked the streets of Salt Lake City, praying that the city would be receptive to the evangelists and their message.
- All convention attendees, including the media, were given wristbands with the name of a local pastor and church from the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention or a national convention official for whom to pray during the gathering.
- Bob Reccord, president of the convention's North American Mission Board, detailed plans to conduct two major evangelistic events a year in 15 major cities starting in the year 2000.
Two of the cities will be targeted each year for the entire year. Cities named as "first strike" priorities are Chicago, Phoenix, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Boston, Miami, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Detroit, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Seattle, San Diego, Cleveland, Montreal and Toronto.
- Plans were also unveiled for what is being called the New Year's Eve Party of the Century.
YouthLink 2000 will bring together an estimated 150,000 students for a linked, high-tech gala in seven domed stadiums and convention centers nationwide: Anaheim, Atlanta, Denver, Houston, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Tampa. The Christian party, slated to last three days, will emphasize the need for American teenagers to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with their contemporaries and will also usher in the new millenium.
Fifteen thousand youths and leaders have already registered for the event.