THE former Archdeacon of Bournemouth, the Ven. Dr Peter Rouch, is to be the next Chief Executive of the Church Army, it was announced on Monday. He succeeds Mark Russell, who became Chief Executive of the Children’s Society in 2019 (News, 12 April 2019), since when Des Scott has been interim CEO.
Dr Rouch is due to take up the post at the start of May, and with his wife, Tracey, will move to Sheffield, where the Church Army’s headquarters are based.
He was Archdeacon of Bournemouth from 2011 to 2020. Since last October, he has been Principal External Consultant for the Transforming Effectiveness programme at Church House, Westminster.
Dr Rouch trained for ordination at Westcott House, Cambridge, after working for Barclays Bank. He served his title at St John the Evangelist, East Dulwich, in Southwark diocese, after which he spent two years as a Junior Research Fellow at St Stephen’s House, Oxford, From 2005 to 2011, he was Priest-in-Charge of the Apostles’, Manchester, with Miles Platting.
Dr Rouch is a member of the General Synod’s House of Clergy, and has contributed to debates on matters including estates evangelism and religious communities.
The Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, who chairs the Board of the Church Army, said on Monday that Dr Rouch’s “experience as a pastor, Archdeacon, and now working on strategic development for the Church of England nationally, will help Church Army develop its distinctive evangelistic ministry in ways that will be a blessing to the Church across these islands.”
Speaking on Tuesday, Dr Rouch said that he had known about the Church Army “for a very long time”. As Archdeacon of Bournemouth, he had seen evangelists train at one of its centres for mission in Southampton.
“It seems to me that at the heart of what Church Army does is living and speaking the faith in highly relatable ways,” he said. “You see that in the centres of mission, which are deeply rooted in the lives of the communities they serve. And predominantly, those are communities where, as a wider Church, we’re struggling in our mission, where sometimes we’re struggling even to stay; but Church Army is able to live our faith, build Christian community, in highly relatable ways.”
Dr Rouch spoke of the Church Army’s “Hope on the Streets” initiative, which “is very incarnational, but [also] utterly focused on enabling people both to taste but also to hear the gospel”.
The pandemic had effected “those on the margins disproportionately”, he said. “That’s where Church Army is: on the margins.” Far from retreating during the pandemic, the organisation had opened six new centres of mission and no staff had been furloughed, he said.
He continued: “We offer something really distinctive in the life of the church, [and] not just the Church of England. . . We’re an acknowledged mission community of the Church of England, but, actually, we’re partnering with the Anglican provinces, right through the islands — England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland — which is a huge joy.”
The six years of ministry that he spent in inner-city Manchester had been transformative, Dr Rouch said. When he moved there, having taught at St Stephen’s House, and been chaplain at St John’s, Oxford, “I had not experienced anything like it in my life”.
“However much I could process informationally the nature of deprivation — I could give you the psychology and I could reel off the stats — to actually live in that context, to be part of that, to share people’s lives, and to find things that sparked gloriously was just amazing.”