In March it was announced that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and global restrictions on travel and mass gatherings, the Lambeth Conference of 2020 would need to be rescheduled to the British summer of 2021.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has now taken the important decision to reschedule the Lambeth Conference by a further year to the British summer of 2022. The conference will meet in 2022 in Canterbury. In the above filmed message to the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop has also announced that a wider programme will be developed before and after the event delivered virtually and through other meetings.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Archbishop of Canterbury and conference planning teams have been monitoring the situation, following relevant advice from public and global health authorities as it becomes available. They have also undertaken ongoing consultation with Primates, bishops and spouses – about the impact of COVID-19 in their countries.
As with most large scale events and conferences of this nature – planning for events in such an unstable climate is difficult. As an international gathering (the Lambeth Conference invites bishops and spouses from over 165 countries) there are a significant number of uncertainties that make preparations for a 2021 meeting challenging.
Whilst some lock down measures are starting to ease in some countries, social distancing measures, travel restrictions and quarantine measures could impede logistics and delegates’ travel planning for the foreseeable future. There are also the risks of a potential second wave of the virus and the reality that there are different phases in how the pandemic is spreading around the world – with no vaccine yet available.
Prioritising the health and safety of our event attendees
The safety and health of conference delegates is of utmost priority to the Lambeth Conference Company. In addition, Bishops and spouses attending the conference have an important leadership role in their dioceses. As well as providing pastoral support to their churches and congregations, many are also involved in coordinating volunteering and bolstering support services, as churches of the Anglican Communion play their part in responding to the COVID-19 crisis around the world.
In consideration of all these factors –the decision has been taken to postpone until the British summer of 2022. Whilst the challenges of the pandemic will be ongoing for many years to come, it is hoped that by holding the event in 2022, restrictions on large events and travel may have eased making conditions more favourable for this important gathering to occur.
Between now and the conference, the Lambeth Conference organising teams will work to consult with the bishops and spouses of the Anglian Communion to ensure that the experiences of COVID-19 in their countries – and wider issues of church and global concern – are built in to scoping the priorities and outcomes of the conference programme.
Alongside this, the conference team will be sharing different resources with bishops and spouses, to help them with their thinking and preparations for the event. These may include Bible resources, group discussion tools and special papers on matters relevant to the Anglican Communion. These will be available through a new Lambeth Conference App and online resource hub on the conference web site launching in the months ahead.