Edward Bailey (1935 – 2015), the originator of Implicit Religion, founded and ran the Implicit Religion journal (Equinox) from 1998 and the annual Implicit Religion conferences from 1978, known fondly as the Denton Conferences – named for the hall they were held in. Edward was also the first President of the British Association for the Study of Spirituality. He received his MA from Cambridge, a second MA and his PhD from Bristol University. He was Rector of the Parish of Winterbourne, Bristol from 1970 to 2006 as well as a Visiting Professor at Middlesex and Staffordshire Universities, UK.
In 1968 Edward initiated the formal study of ‘Implicit Religion‘, which he initially termed ‘secular faith’, until his wife stepped in and suggested implicit religion. In many regards, Edward was a pioneer with his work on Implicit Religion, and it is now that we are reaping the benefits of this. Implicit Religion is a broad ranging concept that seeks to understand the sacred amongst people where they are gathered, where they are most ‘at home’. He argued that if we are to understand the vitality and breath of what religion is or could be we must look for commitments outside of religious institutions and traditions in what is typically considered the ‘secular’. Then we must examine how those commitments help individuals and communities create integrating foci for their lives and identities. Doing so will help us to understanding meaning making by providing an insight into how strong intensive concerns lead to extensive effects or actions. The ‘sacred’ is the heart of Implicit Religion.
At the heart of Edward’s approach and scholarship was his selfless capacity for mentoring and encouraging of young and emerging scholars. Edward was always willing to step outside of his comfort zone and experiences to encourage what he saw in others. He had a real capacity for drawing out the passions, insights and experiences of young scholars and gently guiding them into a realisation of the conversations and applications of Implicit Religion within their work, their just forming ideas or their additional passions. He was superb at matching up seemingly disparate academics by showing them how Implicit Religion gave them a common thread to talk about and to what mattered to them – in many cases setting up friendships, mentoring and guidance for life. The Edward Bailey Research Centre is set up to honour and continue that ethos and commitment to supporting young scholars, and to broaden it out to marginalised scholars as well.
Although the creator and originator of Implicit Religion, Edward was not jealous and guarded with it, he offered it to all and did not restrict how and to what they applied it as a means of making a genuine examination. That spirit of generosity, collegiality and willing to give is what this centre, and the activities, events and teaching it provides, aims to emulate and continue. It will do this through the range of courses it will develop. Through the spaces it provides for undergraduate students at international conferences. Through the workshop and feedback style of the USA conference. Through the intentional lifting up and celebration of the work of marginalised scholars through their keynote presence, their guest lectures and continuing to embrace digital technologies to ensure accessibility. We do this for the betterment of the field of religious studies and to the memory and work of Edward Ian Bailey.