ANDERSON — The annual Church of God Convention got underway Monday with Anderson playing a supporting role to the main event for the first time in nearly 100 years.
That honor this year went to Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City, while the Madison Park Church of God served as a satellite location.
It was a necessary decision that followed 10 years of steadily declining attendance here and changing church demographics, said Mary Baker-Boudissa, chief of strategic communications for the ministry.
A third of the Church of God’s membership now reside in the western region of the United States. Of its 30 largest congregations, 11 are near the West Coast, two are in Anderson, and the largest is in Boston, according to church officials.
“Everything is coming together nicely,” with support from the Crossings Church of God that mirrored what Anderson University and the city used to provide for the convention and annual meeting of the Church of God’s General Assembly, Baker-Boudissa said.
The General Assembly is the church’s decision-making body comprised of the ministers and leaders of churches around the country and throughout the world.
Baker-Boudissa said that in the first “official” event of the convention, Church of God General Director Jim Lyon was expected to “really share his vision for the future of the Church of God.”
“This is the first time the General Assembly will be introduced to that vision,” she added.
Monday afternoon, however, Lyon held a town-hall style forum, taking questions from attendees in Oklahoma and here in Anderson.
For Steve and Brenda Hency of Reedsville, Va., where he’s pastor of the Tibitha Church of God, traveling to Anderson is part of an annual opportunity to visit family, including their daughter and parents. They arrived in town on Saturday.
“We probably would have gone to Oklahoma but for family reasons,” Steve Hency said. “We’re anxious to see how it will be here with the live stream.”