Baptist World Congress Postponed to 2021

In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Baptist World Alliance announced Friday (March 27) it would postpone the 22nd Baptist World Congress for one year. The Congress, a quinquennial event scheduled this time to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in July 2020, will now occur July 7-10, 2021, in Rio de Janeiro. The BWA previously postponed Congress during the Great Depression, canceled it during World War II, and delayed its Baptist Youth World Conference in 2003 due to the SARS outbreak.

“These are challenging times for many within our global Baptist family and for people around the world. In these uncertain days, standing in solidarity with those in need will require sacrifices and necessitate difficult decisions,” said Elijah Brown, BWA general secretary. “When we chose the Congress 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, and I eagerly await the opportunity for us to be together in Rio in July 2021.”

Congress deliberations included BWA President Paul Msiza and other BWA senior officers, incoming President Tomás Mackey, Union of Baptists in Latin America General Secretary Parrish Jácome, BWA Congress Committee Chairperson Jerry Carlisle, Presidents of the Women’s, Men’s, and Youth Departments, and the leadership of all three Baptist conventions in Brazil. The decision to postpone was unanimous.

BWA Congress communion

Communion at the 2015 Baptist World Congress in Durban, South Africa, led by (from left) current BWA President Paul Msiza, previous BWA President John Upton, and then-BWA General Secretary Neville Callam. (Brian Kaylor/Word&Way)

Msiza, who previously told Word&Way he has been under self-quarantine at his home in South Africa because of his BWA travel, called the delay “the best decision in the interest of the BWA family and the local community in Rio de Janeiro.”

“In moments of a major crisis and a challenge like the one we are facing currently, we turn to our Father in prayer to ask for wisdom,” he added. “I call upon all BWA members to give support to our General Secretary Elijah Brown, the staff, and the Congress team as they work hard to negotiate with all stakeholders to make preparations for 2021. I also call upon all of us to pray because we all know that our help come from Lord as stated in Psalm 121.”

BWA leaders said their staff and global Congress leadership will continue to build upon the plans that were in place for this summer’s event, including offering dedicated streams for all ages.

“We remain passionately committed to provide a powerful time of worship, fellowship, teaching, networking, and serving with streams for children, youth, and adults – enabling families and people of all ages to experience this amazing event ‘Together,’” said Carolina Mangieri, BWA director of global events and fellowship. “I am prayerful that with the delay, even more people will be able to join the BWA Congress next year. After this unprecedented season of physical isolation, it will be a powerful moment to join ‘Together’ as a global Baptist family to worship, celebrate, and serve alongside one another.”

Registration for the 22nd Baptist World Congress remains open. Congress registrants have been notified and additional questions related to the postponement are answered in an FAQ document on the BWA’s new Congress website.

“I encourage you to register today” said incoming BWA President Tomás Mackey. “This Congress will be part of a sacred journey that draws us together as a family from around the world in celebration and worship and commissions us for God’s ongoing mission. You will want to be present for this life-changing gathering.”

The BWA is also hosting a global prayer call on Monday, March 30, at 9:15 am EDT. This will launch a 24-hour prayer marathon in which Baptists around the world are encouraged to pray.

WRITTEN BY: Bernard Adu-Gyamfi