The Lambeth Conference, the once-a-decade gathering of the bishops of the Anglican Communion, has been postponed for 2020 and will take place in 2021 instead.

The event takes years of planning and fundraising to bring as many Anglican church leaders from across the globe to the UK for the conference and this year’s was on schedule with around 1,200 bishops and spouses due to attend from 165 countries.

But as the coronavirus spread around the world and took hold in the UK, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, announced that the conference would have to be rescheduled. Archbishop Welby took his decision after consultation with the Lambeth Conference Design Group, primates of the Anglican Communion and trustees of the Lambeth Conference Company and after taking advice from public health experts.

The conference organizers say that they plan to replicate what was planned for 2020 to be held in 2021 and the same venues will be used – the University of Kent at Canterbury campus and Canterbury Cathedral.

Those who registered to attend in 2020 will have their registration carried forwards to 2021 and any new bishops that take up their post before 2021 will also be invited to register.

As well as concerns about health risks to those attending the conference and the difficulty of travel during the Covid-19 crisis, organizers also realised that many of those due to come to Lambeth in 2020 would have been heavily involved in their countries’ response to Covid-19 – another reason for the delay.

The Lambeth Conference of 2021 will be the fifteenth such gathering. Its theme will be God’s Church for God’s World – Walking, Listening and Witnessing Together. It will not be the first time that a Lambeth Conference has been delayed by global events. Instead of a Lambeth Conference in 1918, 10 years after the fifth one and just as the First World War was drawing to a close, the sixth was delayed until 1920. After the seventh was held in 1930, the eighth was not held until 1948, three years after the end of the Second World War.

The Anglican Centre in Rome was planning to be represented at the 2020 event and like everyone else involved, will reschedule its plans for 2021.