Paul Beasley-Murray, This is My Story: A Story of Life, Faith and Ministry by (Wipf & Stock, 2018)
Last year Baptist minister Keith Clements published an autobiography of his life: Look Back in Hope. We know have a second autobiography from a similar period in this account of his life by Paul Beasley-Murray. Both autobiographies interestingly mention the other in passing from their time overlapping as students in Cambridge. Paul is the son of George Beasley-Murray, one of the leading Baptist New Testament scholars of the twentieth century. He followed his father into Baptist ministry, into doing a New Testament doctorate and into being Principal of Spurgeon's College. Here is a story of what it is like to be child of the manse and of college (George taught at Spurgeon's College and the International Baptist Theological Seminary while Paul was growing up). Paul although following in his father's footsteps has charted his own course - he trained for ministry at Northern Baptist College while doing his doctorate at Manchester, spent two years as a Baptist missionary with BMS and had two long pastorates in churches that grew.
Apparently when Douglas McBain published his book Fire Over the Waters in 1997 many wanted to read it for what they hoped would be juicy stories of someone on the inside of Baptist institutional life. Many may want to read Paul's book for his account of what happened at Spurgeon's when he was Principal. The story of why Paul stepped down as Principal is one that never been told (although as Paul points out an unnamed version did appear in Alistair Ross's Evangelicals in Exile). It has been a unspoken moment, which no hint of difficulties is given in either Ian Randall's history of English Baptists in the 20th Century or his history of Spurgeon's College (A School of Prophets). In the chapter Paul sets out to tell the story honestly and carefully from his own perspective on the difficulties that he faced during this period. The vice-principal, tutors at the College and the governing body do not come out well. It is a very sad account, especially with the impact it had on his children, and it is testimony to Paul in the way he responded to the fallout and the silence until now that he has kept. As Paul says it is for others to tell of their own involvement. I know Spurgeon's is a different place to how it sounds it was during the 1980s and some of this is down to Paul's innovations and modernisation, which arguably saved the college at that time.
Outside of the Spurgeon's chapter, the chapters on his time at Altrincham and Chelmsford Central give in an insight to the life of being church pastor and leader and Paul's own particular style and approach. The impact of church growth theory, his involvement in Mainstream and then from 1994 Ministry Today and more recently the College of Baptist Ministry. I could have done without the appendixes on his leadership style and why he is a Christian and other bits - these are typically Paul Beasley-Murray pieces. I would have been more interested in his reflections on wider Baptist life, but then perhaps the title of the book is a clue - This is My Story - which stresses his story.
Paul has had a mixed reception amongst Baptists and reading this autobiography has the potential for people to see him differently, but for others it may confirm their already held view. Regardless This is My Story is well worth a read as a story of one Baptist minister living though the last fifty years. Perhaps Paul and Keith have started a trend, which will see similar accounts emerge. I for one would love to read them.