The Executive members are elected at the Annual Conference
David Walker (President)
The Rt Revd Dr David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, is the current President of the Rural Theology Association. Although now working in a predominantly urban diocese David has considerable experience of the rural context from his time as suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Worcester. He is very committed to the concept of ‘reflective practice’, and assists with the Centre for Studies for Rural Ministry colloquia which take place three times a year. His research into ministry in a rural diocese led to him being awarded a PhD by Warwick University in 2014. That research in turn led to the publication of his first book ‘God’s Belongers’ in February 2017. In addition to his work in Manchester, David is Deputy Chair to the Church Commissioners and Vice-Chair of the Ethical Investment Advisory Group of the Church of England. Both he and his wife Sue are members of the Third Order of the Society of St. Francis.
Leslie Francis (Chair)
The Revd Canon Professor Leslie J Francis was President of the Rural Theology Association between 1998 and 2015. Currently he serves as Chair. He established the journal Rural Theology in 2003. He serves as Professor of Religions and Education at the University of Warwick and Honorary Distinguished Canon at Manchester Cathedral. He also serves as a self-supporting priest on Anglesey where he has been taking services in St Edwen’s Church, Llanedwen.
Adam Stevenson (Secretary)
John Owen (Treasurer)
The Revd John Owen spent 25 years in urban ministry before discovering the satisfactions of having a rural charge in some parishes in the South Downs National Park. Now a backyard keeper of poultry, pigs and bees, he does some tutoring for the STETS regional ordination course based at Salisbury, and greatly enjoys the regular round of parish visits and services, in a context where the church can play a significant part in the life of the local community.
Tania ap Siôn (Journal Editor)
The Revd Dr Tania ap Siôn is Editor of the Rural Theology journal. Since October 2018, she has held the position of Senior Post-doctoral Research Fellow at Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln. Prior to this, she was Associate Professor in Education and the Social Significance of Religion at the University of Warwick. In addition, Tania is Executive Director of the St Mary’s Centre in Wales (a research institute concerned with developing research-based reflective practice in church and school contexts) and she is a self-supporting Anglican priest on Anglesey within the Bro Tysilio Ministry Area.
Christopher Rutledge (Membership Secretary)
The Revd Canon Dr Christopher Rutledge is the membership secretary of the Rural Theology Association. Prior to retirement has was a parish priest in the diocese of Salisbury. He is a visiting research fellow at Glyndwr University.
The Revd Dr Mark Betson is the Rural Officer for the Diocese of Chichester (Sussex), the South Eastern Regional Director for Farm Crisis Network and parish priest for the rural churches of Lower Beeding. He has a background in environmental science, particularly hydrogeology and agriculture, and is currently undertaking research into the spiritual importance of rural church buildings and their environments to visitors.
The Revd Dr Robert Barlow trained at a time when Faith in the City was being published and there was a heavy emphasis on the need for the church to reconnect with UPAs. At that time it felt as though rural ministry was seen as a preserve for the old and exhausted after doing “proper” work. Never the less he served what in those days was rare- a rural curacy. Colwich and Great Haywood in Lichfield diocese were two churches in three villages with a total population around 5,000. From there he was incumbent of Crick (pop 1,500), Yelvertoft (800) and Lilbourne (360), three villages in Peterborough Diocese, and (in addition) was for four years Rural Officer. After 13 years which saw steady growth Robert felt he had done all he was going to do and the villages needed someone who would be different in the next stage of their life. He took on the post of Chaplain for Agricultural and Rural Life in the Diocese of Worcester and described himself as a “free range vicar”. The job was fantastic and took him into places and situations that clergy rarely see, but he was missing parish ministry. After nearly seven years he took on his current role, priest in charge of Teme Valley South, seven small churches scattered across the beautiful countryside of west Worcestershire. The total population of the area is only around 1,500 and often living in scattered houses down remote farm tracks. Other than seven churches, five village halls, two pubs and two farm shops there are no community facilities, no schools, post office, library, health centre…. Building community is a major task.
The Revd Elizabeth Clark is the National Rural Officer for the Methodist and United Reformed Churches. Her post is based at Germinate: Arthur Rank Centre at Stoneleigh Park. It often feels as if she is juggling several different ‘hats’ but that is not new. Prior to this appointment, Elizabeth served as a Minister in 3 circuits across North Yorkshire always looking after several churches. From her 6th year in ministry she was also District Rural Officer to one and then two Methodist Districts. Elizabeth is passionate about rural ministry and rural communities, which considering she grew up in London is quite a culture change. Elizabeth is committed to ecumenical working as the key to rural mission and ministry.
The Revd Claire Maxim is the CEO of the Arthur Rank Centre. She was ordained in 2010, after 20 years in the energy industry. She is passionate about a ministry of coffee and cake, and loves to dissect a knotty problem over a glass of something. For relaxation she reads history and detective novels, walks, paints, and spends too much time on Twitter.
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