The major gathering of Anglican bishops was going to take place this summer, in the midst of theological tensions. “The health and safety of our attendees is our utmost priority”, the organisers said.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, announced on Monday that, due to coronavirus, the Lambeth Conference has been rescheduled to the summer of 2021, in the same venue at the University of Kent and Canterbury.
The Lambeth Conference is the major gathering of bishops and spouses from across the worldwide Anglican Communion, which takes place around once every decade.
The decision was taken “following consultation with various stakeholders, including fellow primates, and after several weeks of prayer involving the organising teams”, the organisers explained in the conference website.
“HEALTH AND SAFETY IS OUR OUTMOST PRIORITY”
“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”, Welby said in a video message.
He pointed out that “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”.
“We recognise that this will be a significant disappointment for all those registered to attend, 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”, organisers stressed.
The Archbishop underlined that the future conference “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”.
A CONFERENCE IN THE MIDST OF GREAT DIVISION
The Lambeth Conference had intensified the division within the Anglican community, when last May the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon) announced in a statement, that most of the Anglican leaders from Global South countries would not attend the gathering organised by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
They stated that the conference “includes provinces who continue to violate Lambeth Resolution I.10, failing to uphold faithfulness in marriage and legitimising practices incompatible with Scripture. This incoherence further tears the fabric of the Anglican Communion and undermines the foundations for reconciliation”.
Gafcon had also decided to call together “a meeting of bishops of the Anglican Communion in June of 2020, for those who will not be attending Lambeth”, because “we have no interest in attempting to rival Lambeth 2020, but we do not want our bishops to be deprived of faithful fellowship while we wait for order in the Communion to be restored”.
OTHER CHRISTIAN GATHERINGS CANCELLED
Other Christian conferences in the UK have also been cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis, including Word Alive, the two New Wine summer events, as well as the Keswick Convention.