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. In 2013, COGIC extended the agreement through 2016.
The Commercial Appeal, of Memphis, reported Thursday that Memphis has bid for the return of the COGIC convocation payday advance online.
Kevin Kane, chief executive of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the newspaper that he and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton had met with church leaders “about future COGIC opportunities that could include the convocation” in Memphis in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Brian Hall, the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission’s chief marketing officer, said Thursday the commission hopes COGIC will continue to meet in St. Louis after 2016. He declined to disclose what the CVC is offering to retain the business but acknowledged church leaders will negotiate with other cities.
“They’re doing their due diligence, as they should,” Hall said.
He added: “We are very confident that the America’s Center package fits very well with the nature of the convention COGIC conducts during their convocation.
“I know they just plain ran out of space in Memphis. And I know that nothing has changed in Memphis.”
St. Louis offered lower hotel rates, meal discounts and free hotel parking, a senior church official told The Commercial Appeal in 2009.
Gary Andreas, a hotel consultant based in Chesterfield, said Thursday the COGIC meeting “is a big deal” for St. Louis.
COGIC conventions have led to $98 million in spending in the region in the last five years, according to the CVC.
Andreas said he is not surprised Memphis interests want the meeting to return. Indianapolis and Louisville, Ky., are among other cities that might bid for the meeting, he said.
Maggie Crane, spokeswoman for Mayor Francis Slay, said the city has a good relationship with COGIC members.
“I think we’ve provided a very good home base to them,” she said.
A online cash advance is a service provided by most credit card and charge card issuers.
Filed under: UK, management by Pascal