The Baptist World Alliance announced March 27 the one-year postponement of its World Congress due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 22nd global gathering has been scheduled for July 2021 in Rio de Janeiro, where it was to be held this summer.
“This was a difficult but not unprecedented decision as congresses were postponed during the Great Depression, canceled during World War II, and delayed as recently as 2003 when the SARS outbreak impacted plans for the Baptist Youth World Conference,” BWA Secretary General and CEO Elijah Brown said in a news release announcing the decision.
The congress is held every five years for both fellowship and business including the election of officers, Brown told Baptist News Global earlier this month.
Brown said the spread of the novel coronavirus must be taken seriously but should not stop Baptists from being examples of the Christian faith.
“We must not give into fear,” he said.
Brown repeated that theme in Friday’s announcement.
“I believe this is an important opportunity for Baptists around the world to pray and serve together,” he said in the news release. “When we chose the theme of ‘Together’ five years ago, we could never have known how important the concept would be. Now more than ever, it is imperative for us to stand together as both people of hope and champions of compassion.”
The BWA decision is among the latest such moves by religious organizations around the U.S. and world.
Holy Land sacred sites, annual gatherings and religious services are being closed, canceled or postponed.
The Alliance of Baptists, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina and the Southern Baptist Convention are among other Baptist groups to cancel annual gatherings due to COVID-19 concerns.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship said earlier this month it plans to go ahead with its annual General Assembly in June, but also announced the creation of a COVID-19 Work Group to assess the spread of the disease.
Today, CBF said the work group is staying up to date on “the latest analysis and counsel of public health experts” to determine how to go forward with its events.
“CBF leadership is actively exploring options for all of our summer events and ministries in light of COVID-19, including General Assembly,” CBF said in a statement shared with BNG. “We will communicate fully as soon as possible as decisions are made about how we carry out our mission in the months ahead.”
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