The principal founder of RDM is the Revd Dr Israel Selvanayagam, who is currently serving as Minister of Evesham Methodist Church in Worcestershire, UK.
Israel is a presbyter of the Church of South India, and grew up in the village of Parakkanvilai where he keeps in close touch with extended family. Israel founded the Rural Development Movement – RDM with a group of friends in 1983, to bring hope to the community they call home.
As a teenager, Israel joined ministry as a lay church worker and after four years, he joined the Tamilnadu Theological Seminary, Madurai (a temple town of southern India) for theological education and ministerial training.
He was asked to stay on in the seminary to initiate interfaith dialogue along with assisting a congregation in preparation for ordination. Higher studies followed whilst he continued to serve the seminary with different roles such as Lecturer in the area of Religions, Mission and Interfaith Dialogue, Director of the lay theological education, Convener of the prison ministry and Editor of the Tamil Theological Book Club.
In 1996 Israel became the World Church Tutor at Wesley College, Bristol and Queen’s College Birmingham, under the Methodist Church’s Programme on World Church in Partnership.
From January 2001 to July 2006 he was the Principal of the United College of the Ascension (Anglican-Methodist), one of the Selly Oak Colleges in Birmingham, then becoming the Interfaith Consultant of the Birmingham District while being a preaching minister in the Elmdon Circuit.
In 2008 Israel returned to India to become the Principal of the United Theological College, Bangalore, and from 2010 to 2016 he was the Professor of Religions at Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute, Chennai.
Israel has maintained and expounded the holistic gospel and integrated spirituality. He has published extensively both in English and Tamil, and composed nearly a hundred songs in Tamil.
In 2013 a book of essays in his honour was presented, Discipleship and Dialogue: New Frontiers in Interfaith Engagement.
Israel is married to Leela; their two daughters, Ani and Arul, are maths teachers living and working in Birmingham, and they are blessed with three grandchildren.