David was baptised at Wokingham Baptist Church more than 70 years ago and remained a member for the rest of his life. An entrepreneurial accountant, qualifying just weeks after completing national service in the RAF, he dedicated his life to the Lord Jesus, and served Him faithfully in many varied local, regional, national and international roles.
He first became treasurer of Wokingham Baptist Church in the early 1950s, and completed his last term of service in 2015. He served as treasurer of the Berkshire Baptist Association (1959-86), during which time he launched an appeal for the building of four new churches. He would later serve as Southern Counties Baptist Association treasurer (2000-04).
Baptist Union of Great Britain treasurer
In 1986 David became treasurer of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, and played an instrumental role in the move from Baptist Church House in London to Baptist House in Didcot, in both practical and pastoral ways. It was David who identified the newly built modern office building in the Oxfordshire town after the decision to leave the capital was made in 1987.
‘At that time, it was a small town of 16,000 but a community destined to proliferate in the decades that followed with its excellent rail and road links,’ says David Coffey, the former BUGB General Secretary (1991-2005).
‘He oversaw the sale of the London offices and the purchase of the premises named Baptist House, which gave the Union, the BMS and The Baptist Times modern offices, updated technology and an excellent conference facility.
‘David provided considerable pastoral care and kindness for the staff of the Union, 50 per cent of whom felt unable to move from London to Didcot. Those that were willing to move and be part of the new vision needed initial assistance with housing, and he proved resourceful in making the necessary provision, thus ensuring the continuity of the valuable work of the Union.'
The move to Didcot would take place in 1989. It was a time of significant transition for the Baptist Union, and David Nixon's involvement was influential in many ways, David adds.
‘I became a BU Mission team staff member on the day of the announcement that the offices would be moving to Oxfordshire. The decision to move out of London shocked many staff, and David's pastoral skills were to the fore during the transition days. I am among those staff who appreciated his wise counsel and practical help in finding a suitable property. I record my gratitude to David and his late wife, Joan, for their hospitality and friendship during a significant period of upheaval for my wife and family.
‘David, with his finance team of advisors, was also able to creatively release money from the sale of the London offices to boost the funds of Home Mission, The Ministers Pension Fund, the Bursary Fund for scholarships and a Baptist Loan Fund for church building projects.’
The hallmark of his ten years as BU Treasurer was a ‘legendary involvement’ with the affairs of the Union, continues David Coffey: the treasurer would accompany David and Deputy General Secretary Keith Jones on 12 regional listening days ‘humbly serving as our chauffeur and chief encourager.’ The findings from these days eventually became a ten-year strategy document, ‘Towards 2000’.
‘With the many ideas flowing from the 1990’s Listening Day gatherings, we needed someone who combined realism about existing resources with a buoyant faith to see where God was leading his people.
‘We valued David for his spiritual sagacity and tagged him as the treasurer who loved to say 'yes'. Most of the time!’
‘I used to call David a Philosopher Treasurer,’ adds Keith. ‘So many others would see difficulties in attempting to do strategic tasks for the mission of God, whereas David would think of creative possibilities.’
Serving in Europe with EBF and IBTS
After ten years of serving with the Union, David decided to offer his financial skills and experience to the rapidly growing European Baptist Federation. He served as Treasurer of the EBF and was a crucial player in the move of the Baptist Seminary in Ruschlikon, Switzerland, to a new location in Prague, Czech Republic. He devoted many years to the newly named International Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS). Keith Jones, who would become IBTS rector, says David’s technical and diplomatic skills came to the fore during this time. ‘In the late 1980s the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board handed their seminary at Ruschlikon, Zurich, over to European Baptists. It was necessary to form a European Baptist Board to oversee the work of the seminary, renamed IBTS (International Baptist Theological Seminary) consisting of Europeans Baptists and a representative of American Baptist Churches International Ministries and the newly formed Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. David Nixon was then chairing the EBF Finance Committee and asked to join the IBTS Board. ‘David was soon at the heart of the decision to move IBTS from Switzerland to the Czech Republic, where it was easier for students from eastern Europe to attend and where costs were markedly lower than in Switzerland. ‘This meant the IBTS Board was soon dealing in several currencies and management of the accounts and ensuring assets were placed in the best situation proved to be a major challenge. David rose to the occasion and developed a great expertise in currency transactions involving the Swiss Franc, the Czech crown, the US dollar (funds from the IBTS American Foundation) and UK sterling. At a later point the Euro was added to the mix. ‘Financiers from each of these countries and financiers from the differing European Baptist groups all had varying ideas about how monies should be handled, but David dealt with them all with diplomacy and expertise as IBTS was moved from Switzerland to Prague. ‘In the course of this some of the existing academic staff were unhappy about the decisions made by the EBF Council and resigned. There was a temporary gap in the leadership of the seminary and, once again, David stepped into the breach as Acting President, commuting between his home and his office in Prague. Again, his diplomatic skills kept IBTS operating, pacified students and held the fort until the EBF appointed a new leadership team. ‘David continued as Chair of the IBTS Finance Committee for another 15 years placing the EBF and IBTS very much in his debt.’ HIs contribution is remembered today. 'Recently, I visited the IBTSC which has now moved to Amsterdam,' says General Secretary Lynn Green, who was once David's minister in Wokingham (see below). 'On the wall in the library David was listed in the roll of honour and I was so delighted to see that his contribution is marked and remembered.' During his time at IBTS, David became good friends with Roy Searle, the founder and leader of the Northumbria Community with whom IBTS had developed a partnership. ‘My annual visits to the seminary to lecture and lead Northumbrian Weeks often coincided with David's time at the seminary,’ recalls Roy. ‘Many happy hours were spent in the evenings and weekends in various city bars and restaurants. He was genuinely interested in what I and others were doing, was a great presence around the place, with many of the young students holding him with great affection and appreciation. ‘His interest, inquisitiveness and at times probing questions expressed his care, concern and encouragement to many of us. I recall with great amusement the stories we exchanged about our mutual appreciation of fast and classic cars. He was clearly very gifted and was good company, generous, interesting, often with a twinkle in his eye and a broad smile across his face.’
Life in the local church in Wokingham
David’s commitment to Baptist life was underpinned by a long involvement with his local Baptist church in Wokingham. He became a member in 1944, and in addition to his long spells as treasurer, he would lead Sunday School (1946-61), serve as convenor of house groups (1981-86 and 1988-97), and as a deacon (1956-2003 with fifth year sabbatical gaps). Current General Secretary Lynn Green served as minister here before moving to Association then national ministry.
‘It has been a great privilege for me to have known David for so many years,’ she says. ‘We first met in 1993 when I visited Wokingham Baptist Church as part of the settlement process. David and his wife Joan, welcomed me and my husband Stuart with their wonderful hospitality, and inspired us with their faith and hopeful vision even before I accepted the call to be the Associate minister.
‘David was always wonderfully, consistently, yet quietly encouraging and supporting. He had such humility and grace that he was able to genuinely receive and appreciate the value of a young and inexperienced minister like me.
‘The encouragement that David and Joan gave, the people he introduced me to and the opportunities he supported me to seize have been a great blessing to me over the years.
‘I also loved his ongoing desire to learn and be open to new things. We enjoyed so many rich conversations as a result. He was a possibility thinker and loved to use his entrepreneurial gifts for the benefit of the Kingdom.
‘I deeply appreciated his wisdom, insight and wide experience; often imparted on the many car journeys we made together.’
Lynn also recounts a moment that showed David’s pastoral side. ‘I particularly remember a Council meeting that was held at Tyndale Baptist Church in Bristol when I was pregnant.
‘When we arrived it was apparent that we would be sitting on hard wooden pews for many hours, yet David quietly managed to secure me a cushion and insisted that I take it, which was a most welcome and a very typical act of thoughtfulness, kindness and care!’
Clare Hooper, a Southern Counties Baptist Association regional minister with a particular remit to support churches and pioneers in their mission with children, young people and families (CYF), was another to benefit from David’s presence at Wokingham.
‘David and his wonderful wife Joan were a consistent support for me in my early years of ministry - both in terms of being a listening ear and offering wise counsel when needed, but also practically too by hosting one of the young people’s small groups that the church ran at the time.
‘After Joan died, I would regularly spend time with David and another member of the church chewing the cud over world affairs, the latest Baptist news both here and in Europe.
‘He was an interesting man who never stopped seeking to learn and discover more about faith, theology and the breadth of perspectives that there are. It’s a wonderful gift to have shared the company and learnt from someone who was both open minded and strongly opinionated too!
‘His love for our Baptist family was evident in the roles that he took up and the interest that he showed in local, regional, national and international Baptist spaces.’ Lynn notes that David ‘quietly and faithfully worshipped with us, Sunday by Sunday’ in his later years.
He would continue to meet Roy due to the latter’s partnership with Wokingham Baptist Church, which supports Roy’s mentoring of pioneers and younger missional leaders.
‘It’s been a great joy in recent years through my partnership with the church to see him every autumn,’ says Roy (pictured with David last October).
‘A dear man, much loved by many, a great encourager. He will be sadly missed but the legacy of memories he leaves behind will be a treasure for all who had the privilege of knowing and working with him.’
As well as the roles already highlighted, David also served as a trustee of Baptist Insurance and of the Retired Baptist Ministers Housing Scheme.
Nick Hudson, the current minister of Wokingham Baptist Church, summed up his contribution to Baptist life by describing David as ‘something of a Baptist legend’.
He added, ‘Among the fellowship at Wokingham David was respected and valued for his kingdom vision and readiness to embrace change. Perhaps unconventionally among Baptist treasurers David was a lover of fast cars, and to get a lift from him was often a memorable experience.
‘Along with his wife Joan he was also a repository of so much memory of the history of the church and indeed the town, one of the reasons he will be so much missed. He was gentle, wise and generous, and we give thanks for his full and rich life of service.
‘Our thoughts and prayers are with David’s children Philip, Shirley and Mark and their families.’
Baptist Times, 25/01/2023 (https://www.baptist.org.uk/Articles/654205/_Wonderfully_consistently.aspx)