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. As theologian and social scientist, he has been actively engaged in research into rural ministry and mission since the 1980s. His early books in the field include Rural Anglicanism (1985), Partnership in Rural Education (1986) and Church Watch (1996). Alongside his research, he has also been actively engaged in rural ministry from serving as House for Duty Priest in Charge of Little Wratting and Great Bradley in Suffolk (1977-1982) to serving as a self-supporting priest on Anglesey taking services in Saint Edwen’s Church, Llanedwen (2002-2017). Currently he serves as Professor of Religions and Psychology at the University of Warwick, Canon Theologian at Liverpool Cathedral, Honorary Distinguished Canon at Manchester Cathedral, and Honorary Distinguished Canon of the Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador (a very rural Diocese).
Adam Stevenson (Secretary)
The Revd Adam J Stevenson is the Superintendent Minister of the Fens Methodist Circuit. Adam trained for the Ministry at Wesley House, Cambridge, after working at Methodist Church House in Legal and Constitutional Affairs. He first served in Oxford, for 8 years, with several Churches in rural South Oxfordshire before moving to his present post in the Fens. Adam is also working part time on a PhD, based around Ordinary Theology and Methodist Worship.
John Owen (Treasurer)
The Revd Canon 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 is Rural Officer for Portsmouth Diocese, 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 Christian research institute concerned with developing research-based reflective practice in church and school contexts) and non-stipendiary Associate Priest in Bro Tysilio, a rural Church in Wales Ministry Area on Anglesey. A significant part of Tania’s academic research is concerned with exploring prayer and sacred place in rural churches, cathedrals and shrines in England and Wales, and she is also engaged with the creation of resources for both school and ministry in rural areas.
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 Robert Barlow trained at a time when Faith in the City was 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), in Peterborough Diocese, and (in addition) was for four years Rural Officer. After 13 years, Robert 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 took him into places that clergy rarely see, but he was missing parish ministry. After seven years he took on the role of priest in charge of Teme Valley South, seven small churches scattered across the beautiful countryside of west Worcestershire. After seven years in that post he was appointed Interim Rector of Dudley, a role that involved (with colleagues) holding seven churches together until the pieces of the jigsaw fell in to place for the next stage of those churches lives. That happened in March 2019 and since then as a retired vicar he describes himself as learning what it means to be ordained without the expectation of a parish. He lives outside Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire.
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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