Springfield | The IBSA Board voted to move the 2020 Annual Meeting and shorten the event to one day to accommodate concerns presented by the Coronavirus pandemic. The meeting will be Wednesday, November 4, at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Decatur. There will be no exhibit hall or ancillary meetings. Leaders of the IBSA Pastors’ Conference plan to postpone their gathering which usually meets adjacent to the IBSA Annual Meeting, or to deliver its inspirational content online.
The 2020 Annual Meeting had been scheduled for the Crowne Plaza in Springfield. With the state still in Phase Four of the Restore Illinois pandemic recovery plan, meetings with attendance larger than 50 are still prohibited. The hotel and convention center could invoke a “force majeure” clause, thereby canceling the meeting on 60 days’ notice. Instead the hotel agreed to honor its contract with IBSA in 2021. So the IBSA Board also acted to move the 2021 annual meeting to the Crowne Plaza in Springfield, and to cancel plans to meet at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church in metro Chicago next year. That action will save IBSA significant losses from breaking the contract outright.
The Board voted unanimously to make the move in a video conference on July 14. The action changing the time and location of the Annual Meeting is out of the ordinary, as such logistics are usually actions of the messengers three years in advance. A two-thirds vote of the Board to make the change was required by the IBSA Constitution.
IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams thanked Board members for their action. “We believe this is necessary and safe and prudent to allow us to meet,” he said. He told the Board that the new location will allow for social distancing and provide video feeds to overflow rooms to help protect messengers and guests from Coronavirus transmission.
IBSA’s annual gathering usually draws 500 or more in attendance, although “it’s very likely the meeting could be smaller than that,” Adams said. “It’s difficult to predict whether Illinois will be back in an earlier phase of the reopening, given the flare-ups in parts of the state.”
Tabernacle Baptist Church resumed Sunday services in June with attendance of about 300 in their sanctuary, which seats over 1,200. That represents a room capacity of about 25%, in keeping with recommendations for churches by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
“If we are still in Phase 4 of Restore Illinois, we expect the meeting would be on,” Adams said. He acknowledged that situation could change, requiring future alterations to the plan if the state reverts to Phase 3 of Restore Illinois due to a rise in COVID-19 cases. “It’s still fluid,” he summarized.
The IBSA Annual Meeting will be livestreamed from Tabernacle, allowing people who may be uncomfortable in large groups in November to view the event. The IBSA Constitution does not presently allow for remote voting, so off-site participation will be limited to watching the video feed.
If the state reverts to Phase 3 because of additional COVID-19 cases, it is possible the Annual Meeting could be presented for online viewing only with no messengers present. In that case, the Board would vote on the 2021 IBSA budget on behalf of the Association, and no other matters requiring balloting would be presented in 2020.
Most state conventions are still planning in-person meetings, although a few have altered their plans since executive directors were first polled in late May. The California Baptist Convention and one of two Virginia conventions canceled their fall annual meetings outright, following the example of the Southern Baptist Convention which canceled its June meeting in Orlando. That was the first time since World War II the national convention has not been held.
In Illinois, the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918 caused postponement of the IBSA Annual Meeting twice. A much smaller meeting was finally held in December for the state association which was only a decade old at the time. Records of the meeting refused to identify the Spanish flu by name, calling it instead “the pestilence.”