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Contact: Stephen Drachler
(615) 742-5411 office
(615) 456-4710 cell
Feb. 16, 2006
2012 United Methodist General Conference Moved to Tampa;
Richmond Removed Because of Sports Team's Indian Name
NASHVILLE - Citing a church policy regarding meeting in cities that are home to professional sports teams with Native American names, The United Methodist Commission on the General Conference has retracted its selection of Richmond as the site of the 2012 General Conference and named Tampa as the new meeting site.
The 2012 General Conference will be held April 25 to May 4 in the 600,000 square foot Tampa Convention Center.
At the time of the initial selection, commission members were unaware that Richmond is home to the Richmond Braves, a minor league baseball team affiliated with the Atlanta Braves.
The General Conference is The United Methodist Church's top legislative body. Every four years, nearly 1,000 delegates from around the world gather to set church law and vote on hundreds of issues related to church life. The 2004 General Conference took place in Pittsburgh.
A resolution passed by the 2004 General Conference called for United Methodist agencies and organizations to avoid holding meetings and events in cities that sponsor sport teams using Native America names and symbols. "The United Methodist Church rejects the use of Native American names and symbols for sport teams, and considers the practice a blatant expression of racism," stated the resolution.
"We reviewed many issues when considering the finalists, but the name of the minor league sports team never came up in our discussions," said Gail Murphy-Geiss of Centennial, Colo., chair of the Commission on the General Conference. "We had earlier eliminated Atlanta from consideration because it was home to the major league baseball team, the Braves.
"When the minor league Braves issue was quickly brought to our attention after the original announcement, we believed we were obligated to revisit the issue.
"We are sad for the great United Methodists in Virginia who were excited about hosting the General Conference, but are pleased to take a strong stance against teams with offensive names. However well intended, sports teams named after Native Americans demeans the heritage of native peoples. They perpetuate unhealthy and unfair stereotypes."
Murphy-Geiss said the commission is working with the Rev. Alan Morrison, the business manager of the General Conference, to develop detailed written procedures and policies to help the commission consider future sites of the General Conference, including reviews of cities' major and minor professional sports team names.
Tampa was a finalist in the original search process for the 2012 General Conference. When the commission reopened its search, negotiations resulted in Tampa offering the strongest proposal, Murphy-Geiss said.
The ten-day gathering is expected to attract about 1,000 delegates and 4,000 others to the Tampa area and will generate approximately $20 million in anticipated direct spending.
Tampa is a part of the Florida Annual Conference, which is the third largest conference with more than 329,000 members and 728 local churches.
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