History and impact

The Lambeth Conference dates back more than 150 years; the first was held in 1867 with 76 bishops present and has happened around every 10 years since.

  • The Lambeth Conference in 2022 will welcome over 1000 active bishops and spouses from across the Anglican Communion.
  • In the 1860s a dispute in South Africa prompted Canadian bishops to petition the Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Longley, to call a gathering of senior leaders.
  • Fourteen Lambeth Conferences have met since, about every 10 years, with breaks during the two World Wars.

Despite having no legal powers, Lambeth Conferences gradually gained respect and influence. Christian unity was addressed from the outset. The pastoral letter signed at the end of the first Conference declared Anglicanism was part of something bigger. It began, “We, the bishops of Christ’s Holy Catholic Church…” The ‘Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral’, approved at the conference of 1888, remains the Anglican statement of the fourfold essential basis for a reunited Church.

Profile and impact

Drawing together spiritual leaders from across the world, the Lambeth Conference has always been a high profile event, in the life of the Anglican Communion and wider church.

The Lambeth Conference has always discussed church matters and issues of global concern, including: the persecuted church, refugees, faith and order issues, marriage, the family, human sexuality, the ministry of women, racism, war and peace, Christian ethics and the Christian way of life.

Alongside the full programme of prayer, Bible study, worship services and ceremonies at Canterbury Cathedral, the event also involves a number of guest speakers and dignitaries.

The last conference in 2008 was attended by Her Majesty the Queen, and the Prime Minister - Gordon Brown. The conference also has a strong focus on social justice. In 2008, the bishops marched in London as part of the Make Poverty History campaign.

The Anglican Alliance, which co-ordinates development, relief and advocacy projects was created as a direct result of Lambeth 2008.