Brief Bio

I was born in Pretoria, South Africa, in March 1939.  I went to school at SACS in Cape Town, then studied at the University of Cape Town, Rhodes University, Chicago Theological Seminary and the University of Chicago, and at the University of South Africa.  I am an ordained minister in the United Congregational Church, andserved two congregations before joining the staff of the South African Council of Churches in 1968 where I was director off Communications and Studies.

In 1973 I was appointed to the faculty of the University of Cape Town where I eventually became the Robert Selby Taylor Professor of Christian Studies and, during the last few years of my tenure, the Director of the Graduate School in Humanities.  I retired in 2003 and was appointed a Senior Scholar at UCT and an Extraordinary Professor at the University of Stellenbosch, and remain active in both institutions engaged in research publishing and mentoring.

I have doctorates in theology and another in the social sciences, along with several honorary doctorates (Rhodes, Chicago Theological Seminary, Stellenbosch. Knox College, Toronto). In 2000 I was awarded the Karl Barth Prize by the Evangelical Church of the Union in Germany.  I am an A-rated NRF (National Research Foundation) research scholar. I have lectured in many countries across the world, and authored or edited more than forty books on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the church in South Africa, contextual, public and Reformed theology, social history, Christianity and the arts, reconciliation and justice, and Christian humanism.

My wife Isobel and I are now resident members of the Volmoed Community for Reconciliation and Healing near Hermanus where I write, give seminars and make furniture.  Among my recent monographs are Christianity, Art and Social Transformation; Reconciliation: Restoring Justice; Being Human: Confessions of a Christian Humanist: and John Calvin: Christian Humanist & Evangelical Reformed: Being Led into Mystery: Faith seeking answers in life and death:  A Theological Odyssey: My Life in Writing  and an autobiography I have Come a Long Way (2015).  Some of my books have been translated into German. Korean, Japanese and Swedish.

Isobel and I have three children, Steve, Jeanelle, and Anton.  Steve tragically died in 2010 aged 48.  He and his wife Marian Loveday gave us three grandchildren, Thea, David and Kate.  Jeanelle is a medical doctor working as Director of Public Health in a London borough; Anton an IT specialist who shares my passion for woodworking, and his wife Esther, who is on the staff at Volmoed, came to live in Hermanus in 2015 after a seven year sojourn in Atlanta, Georgia.

5 thoughts on “Brief Bio

    Dan Knauss said:
    May 7, 2020 at 5:10 am

    Hi John — I found your blog when I came across some of your history books and became curious about the author. This site seemed quiet at the time, but I subscribed for any future posts that might be forthcoming. Liken it to casting a line in a quiet pond or investing in penny stocks…it was quiet here for a long time, but now I have a live fish / am receiving blue-chip dividends. 🙂


    Michael Newman said:
    June 4, 2020 at 2:05 pm

    Hi John, I have just been watching the television news in the UK and a young lady called Jeanelle de Gruchy was being interviewed. I began to wonder if she might be related to you – after all yours is a fairly unusual name, so I started doing a search online.
    Almost certainly you won’t remember me, but we met on a youth camp held on a farm just outside Port Elizabeth at Easter in either 1958 or 1959. I am Audrey Geard’s brother.
    It was fascinating reading your brief bio, this convinced me that you are the same John de Gruchy.

    Liked by 1 person

      johndegruchy responded:
      June 4, 2020 at 2:40 pm

      Thanks for writing. Yes, Jeanelle is my daughter and I was at that camp!


    Alicia said:
    June 11, 2020 at 4:51 am

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on how to live as a Christian. I am a black American woman who found your site as a search result for “Christian triumphalism.” I made that search in response to uncharacteristic pronouncements of personal opinion from the pulpit, and directive rather than petitioning prayer, from the white pastors at my church re: protests against police violence. I have enough experience of these men to know they prefer “law and order” rather than them being prejudiced, and yet their response to present circumstances rankles. Rather than be offended I have prayed, and rather than be silent, will write the pastor a letter suggesting that an approach I would characterize as “grace not race” is insufficient to the lived experiences of people who are not Christian. Also, such an approach ignores how some people are seen as subjects rather than citizens, even while they proclaim thanks to God for the liberty soldiers died for but not all enjoy. I hope I will be able to write with knowledge and grace.


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