By Mark Michael

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby announced July 8 that the Lambeth Conference, the gathering of the Anglican Communion’s bishops usually held every 10 years, has been postponed until the summer of 2022, because of planning challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The conference had already been postponed until 2021 in March. The archbishop also promised the development of “a carefully thought-through program of being together virtually” to prepare Anglicans across the world for the 2022 gathering in Canterbury.

“Given the huge challenges our world faces, we’ve concluded two things,” Welby said. “First of all, with the economic downturn that follows the lockdowns, as well as the pandemic itself, we must delay the conference further until 2022. Many of us will feel a great sense of disappointment in not meeting this year or even next year. And it is clear listening to primates that the desire to meet together is unanimous. And, therefore, 2022 is the new schedule.”

“I’m also overwhelmed by the way that Anglicans around the world have been facing up to the huge social needs created by this crisis,” he added. “So many people have suffered from the pandemic economically, physically, through illness and in many other ways, and even have lost those close to them.  It’s exposed the divisions and inequalities of the world with the poor, and the vulnerable, and the marginalized faring the worst. We’ve been isolated from one another by the lockdown restrictions.

And yet we have managed to keep in contact, and, somehow, I feel that the Spirit of God has drawn us closer together. As we look around the world, we see how important it is that the Anglican Communion walks together as we seek to be good news.”

Welby said that travel restrictions around the world were teaching Anglicans how to “walk together electronically,” and that resources are currently being developed to offer encouragement as church leaders care for the sick and vulnerable. “I’m aware that God has given us new means of being the Communion. In the next two years, we will explore those and provide new means of providing mutual support for one another,” he said.

The new digital resources, Welby pledged, will be circulated to lay people and parish clergy, as well as to bishops and their spouses. He also promised a virtual follow up program, “ensuring we carry out what sense that God is calling us to when bishops and spouses meet together in Canterbury in 2022.”

The Lambeth Conference Company indicated that resources “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.”

The Lambeth Conference has traditionally met every 10 years, but the conference was delayed from 1918 until 1920 because of World War I and another pandemic, the Spanish flu. It was also delayed from 1940 to 1948 because of World War II. The Lambeth Conference originally scheduled for late July and early August of 2020 would have ordinarily been held in 2018, but was delayed by Archbishop Welby because of ongoing division in the Anglican Communion.