Lead Researcher, Research Analyst, and Research Team Co-Leader;
Researcher, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
My conversion to Christianity was quite an unexpected event given the nonreligious persuasion of my family. Born and raised in Kingston-Upon-Hull in the northeast of England, my faith journey began at the age of fourteen (in 1979) and quickly set my life on a trajectory which would radically break with the cultural expectations mapped out
for me. As a young person, with no prior church experience or knowledge, I joined a Pentecostal fellowship where my energies were spent on evangelistic programs and study.
With its strong emphasis on outreach and ministry, I soon became involved in many of the church’s activities. In 1984, with the support of my church (both financially and in prayer)
I attended the Eurasia Teen Challenge ministry course in (what was then) Wiesbaden, West Germany. In retrospect my experience in Germany had three major effects on me
and my future.
First, it revealed and nurtured my desire to pursue what some academics refer to as the life of the mind. Education had not been particularly stressed (or made easy) for me as a child. Family conflicts had diverted my energies away from excelling at school and the working class culture of which I was a part, as is often the norm, was quite bereft of the “cultural capital” (as Bourdieu would put it in Lane, 2000) required to equip me for any type of further or higher education.
Second, along with the experience of being in another country (my first time away from England) I experienced life with other attendees who were predominantly non-English.
For the first time I was interacting with people from other cultures and being exposed to a diversity of views about God and life, which challenged (in a healthy way) my parochialism.
The third major effect was that I met my wife Kathy while on the course. Much would transpire however before we were to marry. My first wife Desiree, whom I married in
1990, died in a tragic auto accident in 1991. In 1997, after renewing the acquaintance begun via Teen Challenge in 1984, I married Kathy.
The time between the end of the course and my first marriage was taken up with a mixture of ministry, secular employment, and preparation for university. I commenced study on my
bachelor degree at Birmingham University in the United Kingdom in the autumn of 1991. In 1994, I graduated with a Bachelor of Social Science degree, joint honors in Economic
and Social History and Sociology (BSocSc). By that time, I believe, my calling to ministry had shifted from the pulpit to the classroom and a vocation of higher education, research,
and scholarship. That same year I began postgraduate study at Warwick University under the tutorship of sociologist Professor Margaret Archer and philosophy Professor Roger
In 1996 I received my Master of Arts degree in Philosophy and Social Theory. Carrying straight through, I continued at Warwick, studying under the sociologist of religion,
Professor James Beckford, to gain my PhD in sociology in 2002. The subject of my PhD thesis was an ethnographic study of the Pentecostal church I had first attended. The
work was published in 2003 as The Hybridization of an Assembly of God Church: Proselytism, Retention, and Re-affiliation (Gold, 2003).
During the writing-up stage of my PhD thesis I had relocated to the USA. Kathy (who is US American) and I lived and worked in Canton, Ohio for sixteen years; she as a music
teacher and I a professor of sociology at Malone University in the department of History, Philosophy, and Social Science. Malone is a Christian University for the arts, sciences, and professions and has its roots in the Evangelical Friends (Quaker) tradition. Although my faith journey started far removed from the sensitivities of the Friends heritage, I found a great resonance with the major distinctives of Quakerism, particularly their testimony to peace and commitment to social justice. In 2015/16 we moved from Ohio so that I could take a position as Chair of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. I regard my role in higher education as a vocation and ministry.
My involvement with the research team was initiated through an invitation to become involved by the original leader of the study, Trevor Gregory. Trevor and I had become
acquainted in the 1980s while Trevor was working with Youth with a Mission in Hull. I feel blessed that our paths had occasion to cross again and that I could offer my services
to this important work.