Presbytery of Arkansas
Presbytery Staff

Stewart Smith

General Presbyter

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.

Leslie Belden

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

Resourcing Director

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.

Kenneth Rich

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.

Leslie Bethel Roper

Moderator of the Presbytery

Leslie is a lifelong Presbyterian who grew up and was baptized and confirmed at Central Presbyterian Church in Fort Smith, Arkansas.  Leslie was an active participant in the presbytery’s youth activities during her teenage years.  Leslie attended and graduated from Austin College in Sherman, TX and served in the Young Adult Volunteer Program of the Presbyterian Church.   Leslie is a graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA.  Her first call was as Associate Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Batesville.  In 2012, the church called Leslie to be their installed pastor.  Leslie is married to Jeff and they have two sons.

David Stricklin

Vice-moderator of the Presbytery

David Stricklin is Vice-Moderator for 2018. He is a ruling elder at Westover Hills Presbyterian Church in Little Rock and a former member of the Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry. He was ordained a deacon at First Presbyterian Church in Batesville while he was working as a U.S. history professor at Lyon College. At Lyon, he chaired the Humanities Division and was named the CASE/Carnegie Arkansas Professor of the Year for 1999. He also served as faculty liason to the Synod of the Sun’s Board of Church Visitors for Lyon. He received a Ph.D. in history from Tulane University in 1996 and has several books and articles in print on southern religion and music. Since 2005, he has served as Director of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, a department of the Central Arkansas Library System. He is married to Sally Browder, a clinical psychologist and certified mediator in private practice in Little Rock, who is also a ruling elder at Westover Hills Presbyterian Church in Little Rock. They have a daughter who is a graduate student at Indiana University and a daughter who works for the public library in Findlay, Ohio, where her husband is an Episcopal priest.

Ruth Hamilton

Moderator of the Coordinating Team

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.