Posted by: Titus Presler | April 16, 2020

Pandemic prompts International Association of Mission Studies to postpone quadrennial conference until 2021

The coronavirus pandemic is having an immediate effect on international cross-cultural mission work and also on gatherings of mission scholars, as the missive below, received on March 25, from the International Association of Mission Studies (IAMS) makes clear.

As President Paul Kollman notes in his closing paragraph, the pandemic demonstrates the timeliness of the conference theme: ‘Powers, Inequalities, and Vulnerabilities: Mission in a Wounded World.’

IAMS is the most broad-based association of mission scholars, for it is truly international in scope with scholars from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America and Oceania.  It meets only once every four years, so the postponement of this year’s conference is especially disappointing. It is also very ecumenical, including Anglicans, Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Protestants.

I first attended an IAMS conference in Harare in the mid-1980s.  I most recently attended the 2016 conference, which was held in Seoul, South Korea, and presented a couple of papers there.

Dear TITUS PRESLER

It is with a heavy heart that I announce the postponement of our 15th Assembly, which was to have taken place this July in Sydney. I do so on behalf of the entire IAMS Executive Committee and our local partners at the Australian Association for Mission Studies (AAMS).

This has been predictable, of course, given the global news of the expansion of COVID-19 and the threat to welfare that it represents. Recent restrictions on international travel make any consideration of moving ahead with the Assembly as planned impossible. Australia’s current restrictions, which may or may not be extended to July, are as follows:

    • the government has banned all non-citizens and non-residents from arriving in Australia;
    • the government restricts all gatherings to no more than fifty persons; and
    • Australia (and most other governments) have in place and likely will continue to require a fourteen-day self-quarantine, which would doubly impact travelers upon arrival and return.

Unavoidable as this postponement is, I regret that our meeting – which ordinarily takes place only every four years – will be delayed. We could have all benefited from the quadrennial days of fellowship, intellectual stimulation, and professional encouragement that previous meetings have represented!

We do not yet have dates or details for the eventual Assembly, and are working on that now. We are looking tentatively at July 2021, in the same venue. In addition, we are considering what to do about registration payments already made. We are also looking at the IAMS Constitution closely to determine our next steps. As soon as we have come to these and related determinations, we will be in touch with you. We will also seek to keep you up-to-date about our ongoing conversations with our local partners in Australia at AAMS, especially local chair Darrell Jackson; our local travel coordination company Christian Fellowship Tours; and Morling College in Sydney. I want to thank them, and many others, for all the work done so far to prepare for what will be-regardless of when it happens-an inspiring IAMS Assembly. In particular, a heartfelt thanks goes also to all of you who have already contributed to our future Assembly by setting aside time and energy in myriad ways. It suffices only to know that more than 200 paper proposals were made in study groups, and 80 proposals offered in thematic panels.

I am struck these days by the timeliness of our Assembly theme, “Powers, Inequalities, and Vulnerabilities: Mission in a Wounded World.” Little in my experience has shown the clarity of the wounded context in which Christian mission takes place, with its attendant shared vulnerability and inequalities of resources and opportunity, than the current crisis.

Know of our prayers for you, your loved ones, and all of our partner organizations in this difficult time.

Sincerely,

Paul Kollman
IAMS President


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