I went back in time 12 months and found a prediction from Tony Cartledge, retired editior of the Biblical Recorder and now a professor at Campbell University Divinity School and contributing editor to Baptists Today. After the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) gathering in November of 2006, Cartledge made a forecast in the Biblical Recorder that you can read here and the trend he foretold continued through this year's convention.
He pointed to a sharp drop in the number of messengers attending last year's BSCNC. Cartledge said that numerous factors may have contributed to the small attendance figure, but he believed the main reason was a "growing lack of rivalry regarding leadership." Feeling increasingly disaffected, fewer moderates attend the BSCNC. With fewer moderates showing up, many conservatives do not feel the need to go and outvote them. So Cartledge concluded a year ago, "If that cycle continues, it won't be long before the BSC can save a bundle on convention expenses by meeting in one of our larger church facilities."
Fast forward to 2007 and the headline in the Biblical Recorder days before the convention was "Crowd expected for annual session" The article said that three controversial issues were expected to draw a large group and so the BSCNC staff prepared for 4,500 messengers. If that number had shown up, it still would have been a lot fewer than the 6,400 messengers that attended in 1990, but it would have been an increase of about 1700 messengers over the 2006 number.
So, how many messengers actually came to Greensboro this year? According to a convention wrap-up article at the Biblical Recorder web page, "just 2,784 attended the annual meeting which promised beforehand votes more significant than any in recent years. Attendance was just under last year's 2,832 and was the lowest since the 2,316 who attended the 1985."
Early signs favor Cartledge's prediction of last year. The seemingly highly charged issues of the BSCNC's relationships with the Woman's Missionary Union, Baptist Retirement Homes and the five Baptist colleges promised to pack in a large crowd. Instead we had fewer than last year's puny number of messengers.
It is too early to tell if Tony Cartledge may be a prophet in this matter, but it does at least look like he might be on to something.