He was born into a long-established Methodist family in Tooting, London and educated at the City of London School. At Corpus Christi, Cambridge he took a double first in classics before training for the ministry at Wesley House, taking a first, with distinction, in theology. After serving as Assistant Tutor at Handsworth College 1957-1959 and as a circuit minister in Leiston, E. Suffolk, he was appointed in 1962 as Methodist Tutor in New Testament at St. Paul's United College, Limuru, Kenya. There he helped devise a liturgy and catechism for the proposed East African Union of Churches and standing orders for the newly autonomous Methodist Church Kenya. He returned in 1968 to be Tutor in New Testament at Wesley House, becoming Principal in 1980 and helping to found the Cambridge Federation of Theological Colleges. His publications included Reading the New Testament Today (1977), Christian Character in the Gospel of Luke (1989) and Methodist Heritage and Identity (2018) and contributions to numerous theological journals and books. Co-chairperson of the Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies from 1977 to 2002, he published its history, Exploring Methodism's Heritage, in 2004.
From 1984 to 1998 he served as Secretary of the Conference, where his clarity of vision and intellect, integrity, commitment to justice and pastoral concern commanded deep respect. He served as President of the Conference in 1993, presiding over the major debate at which the Conference adopted its current 'Derby' resolutions on human sexuality. His longstanding ecumenical commitment culminated in his co-chairing of the exploratory talks which led in 1997-8 to the setting up of formal conversations between the Methodist Church and the *Church of England, and in turn to the signing of the Anglican-Methodist Covenant in 2003. In May 1998 he was awarded the Lambeth degree of Doctor of Divinity for his service to ecumenism, his contributions to theology and his service to the Methodist Church. From 1994 he served as an Honorary Chaplain of the Guild of St Bride, Fleet Street. Following retirement to Cambridge in 1998 he continued his teaching, writing and preaching ministry and his close involvement with Wesley House. In recognition of his long service there, Wesley House conferred upon him the title of Life Fellow. Brian Beck died in Cambridge on 18 November 2022.