John Richard De Witt 1935-2018
I met Dick in September 1961 when he took part in the opening exercises in Philadelphia of Westminster Theological Seminary’s academic year. He prayed for the almost 300 students who were the sum total of the student body at that time. He had driven there from his first congregation, Sixth Reformed Church in Paterson New Jersey.
John Richard de Witt was the son of Gary and Elizabeth Petranella Van Vliet de Witt. A son of the manse, he had a strong Dutch heritage. He graduated from Hope College Michigan with the B.A. degree and from Western Theological Seminary with the B.D. degree. He earned the Th. D. degree from the John Calvin Academy of the Theological University of the Reformed Churches in Kampen, the Netherlands, serving as an academic assistant while being a student there. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Rhodes College.
After his years in New Jersey he became assistant minister of Grove Chapel, Camberwell, in London, England, in 1967-69, and so began his lifelong friendship with Iain Murray which engendered a vast warm personal correspondence between the two leaders.
He served as pastor of the Williamsburg Presbyterian Church, Kingstree, S.C., in 1970-75 and as professor of church history and then of systematic theology at Reformed Seminary in Jackson in 1975 – 82. He was senior minister of Second Presbyterian Church, Memphis, Tenn., in 1983-93, and senior minister of the Seventh Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1993-2000. He was installed as senior minister of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 25, 2001 where he served until his retirement in 2005 and where he was followed by Sinclair Ferguson and Derek Thomas. He remained on in the church and taught the men’s class in the Sunday School. He was a trustee of the Banner of Truth Trust and an associate editor of the Banner of Truth.
Dick was the author of Jus Divinum: The Westminster Assembly and the Divine Right of Church Government; Amazing Love; and a fine booklet, What ls the Reformed Faith? He translated Paul: An Outline of His Theology by Herman N. Ridderbos who was his uncle and prepared Truth’s Victory Over Error for publication. Dr. de Witt was preceded in death by his wife of 41 years, Jane Epps. His funeral service was led by Dr. Derek Thomas.
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