The Revd Bernard Green: 1925-2013
Bernard Green, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain 1982-1991, was born at Walgrave, Northamptonshire, in 1925. His father, George, a decorator and signwriter, and his mother, Laura, gave to Bernard and his sister Dorothy the benefit of a devoutly Christian upbringing.
Bernard, having made his own decision to follow Christ, was baptised when twelve years of age, and his calling to become a minister of the gospel was soon apparent. After schooldays he became a student, first at Bristol Baptist College and later at Regent's Park College, Oxford, although his studies were interrupted by his time spent in being conscripted for National Service. Bernard was a Christian pacifist, so instead of serving in the armed forces he opted to be a 'Bevin Boy' - working in the coal mines. He not only shared the dangers inherent in coalmining, but encountered also the opprobrium of those who spurned his convictions.
With degrees from both Bristol and Oxford, Bernard eventually completed his studies and was called to be the first full-time minister at Yardley, Birmingham, a church then only three years old. He served there 1952-1961, during which time he baptised one hundred persons.
In 1952 he married Joan Viccars and to them were born three children, Roger, Pamela and Martin. In 1961 Bernard was called to Mansfield Road, Nottingham, where he exercised another effective ministry for fifteen years.
Then in 1976 he went to Bristol to serve the church at Horfield. He had become well known in the denomination and served on the Baptist Union Council but also in many other capacities. When David Russell, who had been General Secretary for fifteen years, retired in 1982, Bernard was asked to take those responsibilities, which he shouldered for another nine years.
Among the many issues which marked those years were two of particular note: the decision to leave Holborn and to move, together with the Baptist Missionary Society, to new premises at Didcot, thus realising an intention that had been in mind since well before the commencement of the Second World War, and the decision, taken by the Assembly in 1989 to remain in ecumenical partnership by becoming full members of the new expressions of commitment that replaced the former British Council of Churches.
In all the work that came to his hand Bernard brought his readiness to give his very best. His hard work showed both in his grasp of detail but also in the importance of ensuring that the true context, the bigger picture, was held clearly in view.
He travelled widely, preached Sunday by Sunday, attended, often chairing, countless committees, brought his own eirenic and persuasive nature where differing views were held, and still made time to meet many individuals who asked for his counsel and guidance.
The service of the Kingdom of God and his care to be a disciple whose life and work were well pleasing to his Lord were priorities for Bernard. He carried high on his heart the concerns of others where differences remained unresolved. The cost of such dedication was seen in part, but only in part, by the heart attack which he suffered in March 1989 which kept him away from his duties for many months thereafter.
By the time he returned to his desk the offices had relocated to Didcot and he and Joan had moved house to Abingdon. Happily, he was able to enjoy a new measure of strength and energy, although he had, in all prudence, to limit his activities somewhat.
In 1991 Bernard, justly honoured for his work and himself, reached retirement. He continued to live in Abingdon and he and Joan spent many hours in the service of the church of that town. He used some of his new found leisure in gardening, walking and swimming.
He read more widely in Baptist history, out of which he wrote three books. The first, Tomorrow's Man, published by the Baptist Historical Society in 1997, was his biography of James Henry Rushbrooke, which he dedicated to Joan. The second, Crossing the Boundaries, was his history of the European Baptist Federation, a body much indebted to Bernard for the many hours he had spent in its deliberations.
He then turned to writing the third, a brave attempt at telling the often painful story of the European Baptists and the Third Reich. He could not complete it for two pressing reasons. First, in 2006 Joan, his loved wife who had so devotedly supported Bernard, died. It was a most severe blow. Secondly, soon afterwards his own health began to falter. Whilst others had to complete his third volume, Bernard was admitted to hospital.
After a very thorough search by the family to find the most appropriate care home, a place was found in a new Methodist home at Carterton. There for nearly six years Bernard was surrounded by the loving care of his carers, his family, visiting friends, and most of all of his Heavenly Father. During much of that time his mind began to travel paths that none of the rest of us
was able to walk. At length Bernard completed his pilgrimage leaving this world very peaceably, and with his family by his side.
In its 200 years of history, the Baptist Union has been served by some very notable leaders. Bernard has his own place among them and for him we give God thanks, but we remember in our prayers and our affection those who miss him most - all the members of the family, and especially Roger, Pamela and Martin, their wives and husband and the seven grandchildren. '...till the day break.'
The Revd Douglas C Sparkes, Deputy General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain 1982-1991