Officials at the Church Of God In Christ are defending their decision to move the Pentecostal denomination's next annual meeting to St. Louis after having held it in Memphis, Tenn., for more than a century.
"It was never the desire of the Church or the leadership to leave Memphis. This has been our home for more than 100 years," said COGIC Superintendent Dickerson Wells in an interview posted on the church body's website. "However, we could not help but hear and respond to the cry of the delegates regarding increasing hotel rates."
Since COGIC leaders announced this past summer their decision to move the denomination's Holy Convocation to St. Louis, there has been a flurry of discussion and questions within the church body. Some have even suggested that the church body's headquarters could be moving to St. Louis or even Los Angeles.
To set the record straight, Wells said rumors of the headquarters relocating are false and that the headquarters will remain in Memphis, where the first Holy Convocation 102 years ago gave birth to the Pentecostal church body.
And while church leaders wish to bring the Holy Convocation back to Memphis as soon as possible, Wells said the present rates in Memphis – and for the past several years – are too high and the concerns they have raised have not been addressed by the hotel community in the city.
"Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in negotiating with them to acquire what we felt the Church and its constituents deserved," he reported. "So, the Presidium voted to move, then took it before the General Assembly and the general assembly made the final decision."
In announcing the decision this past June, COGIC Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr., said it was "with the sincerest regret that we are forced to leave our founding city."
"We care deeply for Memphis and our history there. However, this move is all about our members, whom we love and have to provide the best possible spiritual experience for even during very tough economic times," said the church leader.
In a recent statement, Blake reiterated his comments, adding that "Memphis will always be home."
"They (Memphis) have an opportunity in future years to make an effort to obtain our business again. We are open to the discussion," he stated, according to The AFRO weekly newspaper.
The Church Of God In Christ, which is currently holding this year's convocation in Memphis, has set the dates of its 103rd convocation for Nov. 8-16, 2010.
With an estimated membership of more than 6.5 million, the Church Of God In Christ is the largest Pentecostal denomination and the fourth-largest Protestant religious denomination in the United States.
Its Holy Convocation is a seven-day spiritual rejuvenation event where over 50,000 members converge to pray, fellowship, minister and reflect on the previous year in order to prepare for the future.
This year's gathering concludes Monday.