Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Big Church Convention Free to Leave after 2016

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Big Church Convention Free to Leave after 2016

Article excerpt

The saints might go marching out of St. Louis.

Officials of the Church of God in Christ whose members refer to themselves as saints could move their annual convocation out of St. Louis after 2016.

Memphis, where the church formerly held its yearly event, is reported to be seeking to bring back the convocation to that city.

The event, which has been in St. Louis since 2010, is typically the city's largest convention each year. An estimated 28,000 people attended this year's convocation, which ended last week.

COGIC, as the church is known, has a contract to return to St. Louis next year and 2016. The Convention and Visitors Commission hopes to keep COGIC coming to St. Louis but realizes other cities want the business.

Reaching a new deal became more of an issue last week after Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr., the church's presiding bishop, sent Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon a letter outlining concerns related to the killing of Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson on Aug. 9.

"We feel especially obligated to urge that steps be taken to ensure that there will be justice in the Michael Brown shooting and that necessary systemic changes will be made," the letter read.

However, Mike Paul, a church spokesman, said Thursday that Blake's letter is not meant as a threat to leave St. Louis. COGIC will honor its contract to return to America's Center in 2015 and 2016. Returning after 2016 depends on reaching a new agreement, he said.

"No decision has been made to date about where future convocations will be after our agreement with the St. Louis area," he said.

The event among the biggest African-American church gatherings in the country had been held for more than a century in Memphis, Tenn., where COGIC is based. It outgrew facilities there, and St. Louis offered a hotel and incentive package to bring the meeting to America's Center, starting in 2010. …

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