Stewart Smith is a lifelong Presbyterian who was born as a preacher’s kid in Charlotte, NC. He moved to Arkansas while in the first grade and grew up in the Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church in Forrest City. He served on one of the earliest versions of the Presbytery of Arkansas Youth Council while in High School. He graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio, TX with a degree in Accounting and became a member of First Presbyterian Church in San Antonio where he was elected a deacon. After several years of work with Diamond Shamrock Refining and Marketing Company he experienced a call to the ministry and attended Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. While there he did a year-long internship at the St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Lynchburg, VA and served for a year as a student co-pastor at the Youngblood Memorial Presbyterian Church in Robinson, TX.
After graduation from seminary Stewart served as Associate Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Fort Smith, AR for seven years. In 2001 he accepted a call to become pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Springdale and served there until accepting the call to become General Presbyter in October of 2015. In the Presbytery of Arkansas he has served on the Camps and Conferences Committee, the Christian Education Committee, the Committee on Preparation for Ministry and the Committee on Ministry. He served as Moderator of the Presbytery in 2007 and moderated the General Council in 2008.
Stewart is married to Laura, an elementary school teacher in Maumelle and they have two sons, Ryan and Alex and a daughter-in-law Jessica who is married to Ryan. In his spare time, Stewart enjoys biking, jogging, golf, skiing and watching sports year round.
Temporary Stated Clerk
Leslie Belden has a commitment to serving Christ through the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. that was planted in her before she was born. Leslie was baptized at Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church in Forrest City, Arkansas, and was nurtured in her faith by that congregation as well as Park Hill Presbyterian Church of North Little Rock, First Presbyterian Church of Paragould, First Presbyterian Church of Jonesboro, First Presbyterian Church of Pine Bluff, and First Presbyterian Church of Jacksonville, Arkansas.
Leslie graduated from the University of Arkansas with the Bachelor’s degree in architecture, which remains one of her passions, especially the fields of historic preservation and community planning. But through her commitment to the church, and her leadership as a Ruling Elder and a member of the Presbytery of Arkansas’s Committee on Ministry, she felt called to ordination as a Teaching Elder. Leslie received her Master of Divinity and Doctorate in Ministry from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and was ordained as the Associate Pastor of First United Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville in 1995.
Leslie has served the PC(USA) on the General Assembly, Synod, and Presbytery levels of governance. She is married to Ted Belden, whose commitment to our denomination and service to God through it mirrors her own. Avid Razorback fans, they enjoy spending much of their time together with their two daughters and their families at sporting events, encouraging their three grandchildren to prioritize God, family, and the Arkansas Razorbacks.
NiAnn A. Thompson
NiAnn Thompson joined the Presbytery staff in January, 1999 as Resource Center Director, served as Assistant Stated Clerk from 2001-2013, and serves as staff resource to the Committees on Christian Education and Nurture, Nominations, Representation, and the Committee on Ministry. She is also Part-time Director of Christian Education at First Presbyterian, Malvern, and is former Director of Christian Education at First Presbyterian, Arkadelphia, Westminster Presbyterian, Hot Springs, and First Presbyterian, Jonesboro.
She serves the Presbytery as Adviser to Christian Educators seeking certification and has served on the Ferncliff Camp Board, as Cluster III Representative to Presbytery, and on Committees on Preparation for Ministry and Christian Education. NiAnn is an ordained Elder and Deacon.
She is a 1995 graduate of Memphis Theological Seminary with a M.A. in Religion and a 1991 graduate of Henderson State University with a B.A. in Secondary Education. NiAnn is a Certified Christian Educator.
She is a widow and lives in Hot Springs with her dog. She has a blended family of six adult children, nine grandchildren and four great grands.
Staff Resource for Youth
Britton Varn is a bonafide P.K. (Preacher's Kid) and can't remember a time when she wasn't active in the church! Britton, the oldest of Rev. Drew and Rhonda Travis' six kids, grew up in various towns in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. She was raised in the church and is ever-grateful for the love shown to her by members of the congregations where her dad served and other wonderful people in the wider church. Her hope is to show that same love to young people in churches today.
Britton attended Austin College in Sherman, TX and graduated with degrees in International Studies and Spanish. While at Austin College, she was very involved in the ACtivators program and did a Study Abroad year in Madrid, Spain. Immediately following college, she married her wonderful husband, Chris, who is a Software Architect with NIC, Inc.
Britton has served as Director of Jr. High Ministry at Preston Hollow Presbyterian in Dallas, and as Director of Youth Ministry at Second Presbyterian in Little Rock. In addition to her part-time work here at the Presbytery, Britton is the Director of the Presbyterian Youth Workers' Association (PYWA), a national organization for PC(U.S.A.) youth workers. She also teaches Spanish to 3 and 4 year-olds at Second Presbyterian Preschool.
Britton has four wonderful children - Riley, Gracie, Kira, and Declan. As a family, they love swimming, traveling, playing board games, and reading books out loud! The Varns are active members at Second Presbyterian in Little Rock.
Director of Mission Support
Kenneth is a native of Louisiana and graduated from Centenary College with a Bachelors of Science in Accounting degree. He was most recently employed as the North American Fixed Asset Accountant for Almatis, Inc., where he worked since 2005. His prior work, from 1993 to 2005, was with Alltel Communications in a variety of accounting positions and from 1990 to 1993 with AT&T. From 1997 to 2000, Kenneth served as the Treasurer for Habitat for Humanity of Pulaski County.
Kenneth and his family are active in the life of Second Presbyterian Church of Little Rock where Kenneth sings in the adult choir and is a youth group advisor. He has also served as Second Presbyterian's treasurer. Away from work, Kenneth enjoys spending time with his children at their sporting events, visiting extended family in the area, watching good movies and reading good books.
Rev. Michael Vinson
Staff Resource CC&D
Michael Vinson is Parish Associate for Worship and Spirituality at First Presbyterian Church in Conway. Michael has a Master of Divinity from Memphis Theological Seminary and a Masters of Public Health from the University of Tennessee in Community Health Education and Organization. He has a Certificate in Spiritual Formation from Columbia Seminary where he has also been trained in New Church Development. He has served as chair of the New Church Development Committee of this Presbytery and currently serves on the Committee on Ministry. Michael has worked with a variety of congregations, administrative commissions and middle governing bodies in discerning new directions and transformation strategies. This Spring Michael facilitated the Individual Health and Balance workshop and co-facilitated the Organizational Health and Balance Workshop as part of the Spring Academy for the Genuine Contact program. He frequently works as facilitator, consultant and mentor with Dalar International, a company devoted to holistic approaches to organizational transformation around the world.
Michael is married to Karen Young Vinson who serves on the Committee on Preparation for Ministry for the Presbytery. Michael and Karen have a blended family including four sons, two daughter-in-laws and three grandchildren. Michael is a potter and enjoys the lessons he learns from the clay about transformation.
Moderator of the Coordinating Team
Ed Wilkinson was baptized as an infant at Central Presbyterian Church in Fort Smith, and joined the church through its communicant's class in 1971. At Central, he served both as Deacon and as Elder. Later, responding to the "still small voice," he became a member of the small congregation of Good Shepherd Church in Greenwood, where he was elected Clerk of Session. A graduate of the Presbytery of Arkansas Lay Academy, he fills the pulpit most Sundays and leads the adult Sunday school class. Ed served three years on the presbytery’s Committee on Ministry and served as a commissioner for the 221st PC(USA) General Assembly.
Ed served in the United States Navy supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, completing his service at the rank of Commander. He was elected to the Arkansas legislature, where he served for 16 years. Ed enjoys studying history and his family’s geneaology, and has served over 21 years as a volunteer firefighter in Greenwood. He and his wife LaDonna have one son, Daniel, a student in the Honors College at the University of Arkansas.
Rev. Lacy Sellars
Moderator of the Presbytery
Lacy is a lifelong Presbyterian who grew up and was confirmed at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC. He graduated from Furman University in 1976 with a B.A. in Religion and earned his M. Div. degree from Louisville Presbyterian Seminary in 1980. While on a chaplaincy internship at Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City in 1978, he met Darlene High in the same program, and they were married the next year. Darlene has a Masters in Religious Education from Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
Although Lacy is a native of North Carolina, each church he has served has been within the Synod of the Sun. In 1980, he was ordained as Associate Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in El Dorado, Arkansas. In 1982 he accepted a call as Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Midwest City, Oklahoma, where Darlene served as Chaplain of Midwest City Regional Hospital. In 1995, Lacy was called as Pastor of Bellaire Presbyterian Church in Bellaire, Texas. After ten years he led a successful merger with Braeburn Presbyterian Church to form the new ChristChurch Presbyterian in Bellaire.
Lacy has been the Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Hot Springs since 2010, serving on the Committee on Ministry. He enjoys being a liaison to churches in transition and serving as a mentor to CREs as they lead small congregations. In 2014 Lacy received his Doctor of Ministry Degree from Austin Presbyterian Seminary with a concentration in Proclamation and Worship. He and Darlene have a daughter, Caroline, who lives in Austin, Texas with her husband Bryan Lieber.
Vice Moderator of the Presbytery
Ruth Hamilton grew up in the Presbyterian Church, but, due to her husband’s career moves with Exxon, she experienced a variety of denominations. Not always able to find a Presbyterian church in a location, she and Dave have been members of a Disciples of Christ Church, a Congregational Church, a Methodist Church, and two Union Churches while they lived out of the country. In the late 80’s, when they were transferred to Houston, they finally arrived back home in the Presbyterian Church. After retiring to Hot Springs Village in 2001, they became members of the Presbyterian Kirk in the Pines.
Ruth was a chemist for the US Department of Agriculture for 6 years, a public school teacher while her 3 boys were growing up, and lastly a Director of Children’s Ministry at a Presbyterian church in Houston. During that time she had the opportunity to go to Austin Theological Seminary to take the course work for Christian Educator Certification.
Ruth found a passion for hands on mission work after learning Spanish during the 5 years she lived in Bogota Columbia. For the next 11 years she and her husband traveled to Guatemala several weeks a year to help with logistics and translation for Faith in Practice medical mission teams. She and Dave also helped start the Arkansas Presbyterian Cursillo/Pilgrimage renewal program.
She was ordained as an Elder in 1991 and has had the opportunity to serve on Session several times. At the Kirk she has served on the Education, Mission, Evangelism and Fellowship Committees. It was her privilege to co-chair of the Pastor Nominating Committee that recommended Bill Bailey to be pastor of the Kirk in the Pines. She has been Moderator of the Kirk’s Presbyterian Women and has attended the Presbytery’s 2½ year program for CREs. At the Presbytery level she had been on the Christian Education and Nurture Committee, the Committee on Preparation for Ministry and the Committee on Ministry, as well as reading ordination exams for the denomination.