The once-a-decade gathering of the bishops of the Anglican Communion, which was to be held in Canterbury, Kent, in July and August this year, has been rescheduled for 2021 in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The decision was taken yesterday (Monday) by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, following consultation with a range of stakeholders, including the trustees of the Lambeth Conference Company, the charitable organisation which runs the conference on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury. In recent weeks the Lambeth Conference organising teams have been prayerfully thinking through the impact of Coronavirus pandemic on the plans and preparations for this important event. Archbishop Justin Welby has consulted a number of key players, including his fellow primates – the leaders of the 40 autonomous churches of the Anglican Communion.
In a video message, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “The place of a Bishop at a time of difficulty is a place of a shepherd when the wolf is attacking the flock. It is to be with them. To be alongside them. To love them. To suffer with them.
“Because of the Coronavirus, travel around the world is deeply restricted and the amount of time that we will face these limitations is unknown. For these reasons, so that we may be good shepherds as bishops in the Anglican world, and encourage the church to be there for God’s suffering world, we have decided to reschedule and postpone the conference and to put it forward till 2021 at pretty well the same time.
“We’ll write to the bishops with the exact dates as soon as we have them fixed. In other words, a delay of one year. We are absolutely not cancelling. When we come together it will be in a world reshaped by what is going on at the moment, and it is ever more important that we meet to pray, to study the scriptures, to hear the word of God, to comfort, to gain a fresh vision of what it is to be God’s Church for God’s World.
“Someone pointed out today that the Lambeth Conference of 1920 delayed from 1918, met in the shadow of the First World War, that the conference of 1948 met in the shadow of the Second World War. Both of them having seen terrible events, God send that we do not see anything like that. But let us remember that as we come together and share our wisdom, we will need to hear from the Spirit through each other to think and ponder and study, to worship and pray.”
“Since the outbreak of Covid-19, the Lambeth Conference Company has been monitoring the situation and following advice from public health authorities,” a spokesperson for the Lambeth Conference company said. “The public health risk of the Coronavirus in the United Kingdom has now been assessed as “high” by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers and a wide range of governmental measures are in place to respond to the health crisis.
“This significant meeting of Anglican bishops and spouses will continue to be planned- with an exciting and engaging programme, being held in the same venue at the University of Kent and Canterbury Cathedral – just one year on.
“We recognise that this will be a significant disappointment for all those registered to attend. Whether that’s as an event delegate; participating in the hospitality programme; contributing to the conference programme; being part of our Resource Centre or serving as a volunteer or steward at the event. Especially as the Lambeth Conference in 2020 was set to be the largest conference yet. However, the health and safety of our event attendees is our utmost priority.”