Pastor Kelley was born in Chicago, Illinois and attended the Chicago Public Schools. He was called into ministry in 1971. He received the Bachelor of Arts degree from Trinity College in Deerfield, Illinois, in 1977. Reverend Kelley attended Roosevelt University, Loyola University of Chicago, Northwestern University graduate school and Seabury-Western Episcopal Seminary. He received his Master of Divinity degree with a focus in Social Ethics and Administration from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in 1980. During his time at the seminary, he was active in the Garrett-Evangelical Black Seminarians and the Peace and Justice Institute. He found challenge and encouragement through the Center for the Church and the Black Experience on campus.
Reverend Kelley has served as pastor and teacher of the King of All Nations Baptist Church in Chicago and the Union Baptist Church in Danville, Illinois from 1978 to 1991. He served as pastor and teacher of the Van Buren Missionary Baptist Church from 1992 to 2004 in Gary, Indiana. His ministry was well respected by colleagues and civic leaders in Gary and Lake County, Indiana.
Reverend Kelley accepted a Call in November 2004 to pastor the historic Mount Zion First Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He followed other distinguished pastors and community leaders such as Dr. Gardner C. Taylor and Dr. Theodore J. Jemison respectively. Reverend Kelley, being moved by God in a new direction of progressive Christian and Holistic Ministry, left Mount Zion First Baptist Church and organized the Greater First Church Baptist of Baton Rouge in May of 2006. About one-third of Mount Zion’s active membership followed Reverend Kelley to realize his New Direction Vision that is engaged in a more diversified and multi-faced ministry as distinguished by it’s motto: “The Church where Jesus is truly Lord, the Gospel is faithfully preached, the spiritual disciplines are practiced, the beauty of Christian fellowship is experienced, and the people of God are highly favored."
Reverend Kelley was appointed the Executive Secretary of the Prison Ministry and Criminal Justice Commission of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., in 1994. He continues to serve his denomination as the Prison Ministry Founder, Chairman and CEO. He brings to this position over 25 years of first-hand prison ministry and administrative experience at the county, state, and federal levels. He was recruited to provide leadership in the conceptualization, planning, implementation, and supervision of the National Prison Ministry for approximately eight million (8,000,000) members and thirty-thousand (30,000) local congregations in the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.
Reverend Kelley founded the Reclamation and Restoration Ministries, Inc. (a 501 © (3) not-for-profit corporation), in 1996. He continues to serve as Chairman and CEO and is responsible for grant-writing to fund model projects he created for over one million dollars. The mission of the corporation is “to promote social and community wholeness by actively developing and implementing relevant and life-changing ministries and programs that will prevent and/or deliver youth and adults from violence, crime, truancy, substance abuse, homelessness, hopelessness, and prison, enabling them to lead responsible, meaningful, and productive crime-free lives.”
Reverend Kelley is author of two books entitled, Jailhouse Religion: The Church’s Mission and Ministry to the Incarcerated; and A Strange Silence from the Pulpit: The Prophetic Role of Pastors in Prison Ministry, created as a manual for a model of redemptive prison ministry in and through the local church. Both books are published by Townsend Press, Sunday School Publishing Board, in Nashville, Tennessee. He is currently working on a third book entitled, Toward a Theology of Hospitality: The Priestly Role of Pastors in Prison Ministry.
The Anthony Kelley Endowed Scholarship was established in 2003 at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in honor of Reverend Kelley’s more than 20 years of faithful and effective ministry since his graduation from seminary in 1980. This scholarship is a lasting tribute to his outstanding ministerial service and leadership abilities. It will perpetuate his love for Christ’s church by enabling others to prepare for ministry. Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary is located on the Campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
The Anthony Kelley Endowed Scholarship will be awarded annually to an African-American student preparing for pastoral ministry or for prison ministry. The Greater First Church Baptist of Baton Rouge, Louisiana will have the joy of meeting the student recipient and encouraging their progress during seminary. Reverend Kelley is married to YaVonya Nancy Shaw Kelley, and together they enjoy five children and four grandchildren.