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Dr John R. de Witt (1935-2018)

November 2018 | by Geoff Thomas

John de Witt passed into glory on Sunday 30 September 2018. The funeral service was at First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, SC, with Dr Derek W. H. Thomas and Rev. David H. Lauten officiating.

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 BA from Hope College Michigan and BD from Western Theological Seminary. He earned his ThD degree from the John Calvin Academy of the Theological University of the Reformed Churches in Kampen, the Netherlands, serving as an academic assistant while 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, from 1967-69, and so began his lifelong friendship with Iain H. Murray, which engendered a vast, warm, personal correspondence between the two leaders.


Dr de Witt served as pastor of Williamsburg Presbyterian Church, Kingstree, SC, from 1970-75 and as professor of church history and then systematic theology at Reformed Seminary in Jackson from 1975-82. He was senior minister of Second Presbyterian Church, Memphis, Tenn., from 1983-93, and senior minister of the Seventh Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Mich., from 1993-2000.

He was installed as senior minister of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC, in 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.

Dick was a trustee of and associate editor for the Banner of Truth Trust. Over many years, he was a much appreciated participant in Banner of Truth ministers’ conferences.

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. Dr de Witt was preceded in death by his wife of 41 years, Jane Epps.

Geoff Thomas

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