A few minutes walk from what remains of the Aberystwyth Castle is the Alfred Place Baptist Church (Independent), whose pastor for over forty years has been Geoffrey Thomas. The church is in fellowship with other basically reformed congregations through the Associating Evangelical Churches of Wales. During these years the congregation has listened to Pastor Thomas systematically preach the Bible. The church has born several missionaries, two of whom were educated at Westminster—Keith Underhill (’74) serving in Kenya, and Austin Walker (’71) a pastor in Crawley, England.
Pastor Thomas became a Christian in 1954 in his home church. After graduating from a boy’s grammar school, he attended university at Cardiff. At this time, he was influenced by Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s Studies in the Sermon on the Mount and J. I. Packer’s Fundamentalism and the Word of God. Inter-Varsity Fellowship and the Banner of Truth magazine also aided his Christian growth. While studying at university, a professor assigned an article in Expository Times, which ended up contributing to the collegian’s decision to attend Westminster Seminary. There was an advertisement in the journal expressing Westminster’s readiness to take British students, so he inquired by post and received answers to his questions from Paul Woolley. Having been accepted to attend Westminster, in the summer of 1961 he boarded a cargo ship at Liverpool and sailed to America. When he arrived at the Church Road campus, he was surprised that the lecturers wore belts to hold-up their pants rather than suspenders like his father, his teachers, and himself, but wanting to fit-in, he donned an American belt. Rev. Thomas was impressed by an atmosphere of freedom in America and eating out was a particular joy—pizza, hoagies, clam chowder at Howard Johnson’s, hotdogs, and the ninety-nine cent meal at Casa Conti, all delighted him.
The people that Geoffrey encountered were fascinating. O. Palmer Robertson, who was a student at the time, enchanted Geoffrey with his distinctively southern drawl. Geoffrey later served as best man in Palmer’s wedding. John Frame and Robert den Dulk were also great compatriots as they labored through their studies together. John Murray’s Christian commitment, his books Redemption Accomplished and Applied and Principles of Conduct, and the vitality of his lectures were all influential for Geoffrey. E. J. Young’s Introduction to the Old Testament was particularly helpful, especially when he was at Cardiff dealing with Old Testament critics. For Rev. Thomas, Westminster was not only about doctrine, exegesis, and history; it was a communal experience involving his friends and mentors.
Following his graduation from Westminster, Geoffrey set sail for Wales. Looking back, he believes that he had to adjust to the transition from seminary life to pastoral work. As he expressed it himself, “I was hard to live with, and my preaching was hard to understand. Did I say, ‘dispositional complex,’ ‘epistemologically self-conscious,’ ‘literary genre,’ ‘Creator-creature distinction,’ and ‘ontologically speaking’ from the pulpit? Maybe.” Pastor Thomas had a little trouble aligning the framing of his pastoral ministry upon his solid Westminster foundation. Banner of Truth, the magazine that had exercised an influence on his early Christian life, became a venue for dozens of his articles over the years and he has served as the magazine’s assistant editor. Other articles have been published in Reformation Today, Evangelical Magazine of Wales, Grace Magazine, and Evangelical Times. He has published several books, including one on the life of Ernest Reisinger. In 1971, he returned to Westminster to address the graduates at the forty-second commencement on the topic of “All the Counsel of God.”
Geoffrey and Iola have two daughters who are married to deacons and the third is a pastor’s wife. These households have born eight grandsons and one granddaughter. As the Thomas family continues its ministry, Geoffrey comments that, “If God spares me, I will end my days in this community with all my friends. I am so thankful to God for what I learned in Philadelphia forty-four years ago.”
Click here to listen to his message "The Word of the Cross" in our audio archives.