FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA – March 27, 2020)
In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) has engaged in a comprehensive assessment of plans for the 22nd Baptist World Congress, a quinquennial event scheduled to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in July 2020. This assessment included communication with event and ministry partners in Rio de Janeiro as well as the appropriate authorities, including travel and health advisory bodies nationally and globally. The information has rapidly evolved over the last month, which BWA staff sought to review and relay as soon as possible to the organization’s constituency of global leaders.
After prayerful deliberations, the Baptist World Alliance has reached a collaborative decision to postpone the 22nd Baptist World Congress until July 7-10, 2021, at RioCentro in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This was a difficult but not unprecedented decision as Congresses were postponed during the Great Depression, cancelled during World War II, and delayed as recently as 2003 when the SARS outbreak impacted plans for the Baptist Youth World Conference.
“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.”
Over the coming year, the BWA staff and global Congress leadership will continue to work diligently to build upon the strong 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.”
The Baptist World Congress has historically been an event with long-standing impact, and Congress leaders anticipate that it will be again as Baptists from around the world come together in 2021.
“God leads His people; we trust Him and follow. He has graciously reminded us that our times are in His hands,” said Jerry Carlisle, Baptist World Congress Committee Chairperson. “I am eager to be ‘Together’ with the worldwide Baptist family in July 2021, knowing that our Father must have something special in store for us!”
Congress deliberations included BWA President Paul Msiza and other BWA senior officers, incoming President Tomás Mackey, Union of Baptists in Latin America (UBLA) 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.
“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. The best decision in the interest of the BWA family and the local community in Rio de Janeiro is to delay the 22nd Baptist World Congress until July 2021,” said Paul Msiza, BWA President. “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.”
Registration for the 22nd Baptist World Congress remains open. “I encourage you to register today” noted 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.”
In addition, the Baptist World Alliance is offering a range of pastoral and practical responses to those who have been impacted around the world. This includes 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. Click here for more information.
Congress registrants have been notified and additional questions related to the postponement are answered in a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document available on our new Congress website as is ongoing registration: BWARio.org.