Two years ago, a last-minute illness kept the Rev. Ken Bailey from traveling to Columbus as scheduled.
He’s on tap for this year.
Bailey, who has a doctorate in theology and spent most of his career as a scholar in the Middle East, will headline the seventh annual Mission Conference Feb. 24-28 at First Presbyterian Church. Bailey, now retired, lives in Pennsylvania with this wife, Ethel. She was a research assistant to Dr. Jonas Salk when he discovered the polio vaccine in 1952, and announced his discovery in 1955.
“He is one of the most sought-after biblical scholars in our denomination,” said First Presbyterian’s pastor, the Rev. Chuck Hasty.
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The conference kicks off with a supper Feb. 24. Bailey will be the keynote speaker for a more formal dinner Feb. 27 and preach for the 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. services the next day, as well as lead a combined adult Sunday school class at 10 a.m. The goal for this year’s conference is $42,000, to be dispersed among 15 groups and individuals, locally and abroad.
Ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA), Bailey lived from 1955-95 in Egypt, Lebanon, Jerusalem and Cyprus. For 10 years, he was on the faculty of “The Ecumenical Institute for Theological Research” in Jerusalem. While there, Bailey was Research Professor of Middle Eastern New Testament Studies.
His specialty is the cultural background and literary forms of the New Testament.
In this country, he has taught at Princeton and Columbia universities, as well as McCormick, Dubuque, Pittsburgh and Fuller seminaries. In 2003, at the request of the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, he participated in a Muslim-Christian dialogue conference in Doha, Qatar.
His most recent book, “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes,” explores various Jesus’ sermons, parables and personal encounter in the context of the Middle East.
Hasty said Bailey’s sermons, writings and teachings would have appeal wider than Presbyterians.
In its own mission efforts, First Presbyterian has an ongoing partnership with a Baptist church in Moscow; an AIDS orphanage in Kenya; and the Flynt River Presbytery, which includes First Presbyterian, is starting a mission effort in Guatemala.
Hasty spoke of such relationships as partnerships — “not just us giving to them but honoring the relationship so we learn from them as well.” For instance, in the 10 years of the Moscow relationship, representatives from that congregation have visited Columbus several times.
And when Bailey visits Columbus, he’ll bring his experiences from the Middle East along.
“Because he lived there, in that place in the world, he has tremendous perspective,” Hasty said.