DR. JOHN WARWICK DANIEL was born in Charleston, South Carolina on July 16, 1950 to believing parents Zach Coffee and Gladys Ensley Daniel. For the first thirteen years of his life, John lived in Charleston (1950-1953) and then in Moncks Corner which is a small town about 35 miles from Charleston. He learned the faith at the First Presbyterian Church of Moncks Corner where he was baptized. (twice! Because the records were lost by the church and even though the government of the church did not allow re-baptism, he was baptized a second time.)
John has only one brother, Jim who is 12 years older and who currently lives in Shelbyville, KY. He is married and has two children. Jim is currently self employed as a management consultant.
At the age of 15 John moved to Columbia because his father became employed by Columbia College – a four year women’s college with strong ties to the United Methodist Church of South Carolina. John completed high school in Columbia graduating from the Eau Claire Presbyterian Church. He was extremely active in this congregation and it was here that the Christian Faith took on real meaning in his life. He served in a youth group out of which five young men entered ministry. Four of of the five continue to serve in the church today and three of whom are in the Presbyterian Church (USA). This dynamic youth fellowship planned and carried out a city wide evangelistic outreach every year bringing 500-700 people each night for a week. Everyone longs for the youth group their children participate in to be outstanding and this one truly was. It was the priority and focal point for all who participated. The Pastor of the church, The Reverend Frederick Debele had a profound impact on the youth even though he was many years older. His strong biblical and solid theological teaching impressed John and no doubt played a key role in his becoming a Presbyterian Pastor.
John had interests outside the church as well. While on the weekend he was often found hunting or fishing he also played football for Eau Claire and he had a key role in the formation and continuance of the Jr. Civitan civic club both at Eau Claire High School but also in the State of South Carolina. John served as the first Governor of the state of South Carolina for Jr. Civitan and helped charter many new clubs. He also was a member of the debate team, the Rod and Gun Club, and other athletic supportive groups in the school.
Upon graduation from high school John entered the University of South Carolina (1968). It was a difficult time all across the country and USC was not exempt. Experiencing riots, demonstrations, and the protection of National Guard troops he spent four years at the University majoring in Psychology and Religion.
In his Senior Year in high school John felt that God was calling him to more than just faithful service in the church. His yearnings later led him to discern that God was calling him to the Gospel Ministry or as it is named today; a Minister of Word and Sacrament.. While today it would not be allowed, he was received under the “care” of Congaree Presbytery as a Candidate during his senior year of high school. His attention then began to focus away from what had been his thought-to-be career for life – wildlife management and forestry – to full time Christian service in the church.
In 1969 John asked the Reverend Cecil Brearley the Executive Secretary of Congaree Presbytery to help find a job for the summer in a church. John wanted to experience what the church would be like and he had spent previous summers working for Cashion Electricians – valuable experience but not directly transferable to ministry. John went to work that summer at the Forest Lake Presbyterian Church in Columbia. It was a strong congregation of over 800. His primary job in the beginning was to work with the youth group of 100. He also assisted in certain CE programs and was (amazing!) given the opportunity to preach on several occasions.
In August of that summer the Sr. Pastor resigned. John was asked to stay on and work with youth and do the Christian Education Program AND preach every other Sunday. Carrying a full load of courses at the University he worked full time at Forest lake and preached every other Sunday for almost two years. He came to love the people of Forest Lake and they him. In John’s Junior year of college the church called Rev. William D. Varker. Bill became a mentor for John and a close personal friend. So close in fact, that when John and Jenny were married Bill performed the ceremony.
As college began to come to a close Seminary was in the future. The decision as to which seminary was not an easy one. It was a difficult time in Presbyterian seminaries and theology was not always sound in its teaching. After a long time of searching, John decided to go to Union Theological Seminary in Richmond. At first, thinking it far too liberal for him, he found that Union offered outstanding scholarship and that while he might not agree with everything he would receive an outstanding education being given the opportunity to study under such scholars as Dr. John Bright, Dr. John Leith, Dr. James Luther Mayes and others.
Upon graduation from Seminary John and Jenny headed to Eastern North Carolina to take a two church field – the very thing John indicated he preferred not to do. He served there for three years and learned many thing about ministry – both good and not so good.
While at Union Seminary John served as Assistant Pastor at the Third Presbyterian Church in Richmond. This was a time of great learning and development and friendships were made during those years that are still strong even today. Reverend Arnold Pate was another in a long line of teachers and mentors for John. Arnold Pate was a dear pastor and great preacher. The demands of his staff were very high and in those years John learned a great deal about what it really means to be a preacher and pastor.
In 1979, John was called back to Richmond to the Crestwood Presbyterian Church as Pastor. It was and is a strong church with deep roots and extremely solid teaching for a foundation. Crestwood was a thriving and growing congregation that desired to truly impact the world for the Kingdom of God and desired to grow both in numbers and in discipleship. When John began at Crestwood there were officially 127 members in worship. Today, after 23 years, this congregation has grown to over 700 with 450 in worship.
The most significant event of this biographical history is the decision to marry Jenny (nee Virginia Anne Peake of Columbia South Carolina). Jenny has been a strong supporter of John’s ministry and to this day continues as deeply involved in the church as John. Yet there is more to the family. The deep blessings of his life include one son, Marc, a graduate of Virginia Military Institute ’07, currently a Lt. in US Army, Armor Branch and Elizabeth, a graduate of James Madison University and currently a graduate student at The University of South Carolina as a candidate for a Masters in FAMA in Creative Writing and where she serves also as a Teaching Assistant.
At one point almost leaving Crestwood as Pastor to accept a new call, the Lord called John back. But it was not a call to continue in the same church. It was a call to lead the congregation on a bold new venture. God called John back to do a whole new work. Crestwood now has launched into a two campus ministry seeking to open a new way of being the church in the new millennium. Few people are given the opportunity to do something true new. It was an exciting and demanding time, but the Crestwood Congregation, being the very unique body of Christ that they are, opened a new campus and maintained the historic location.
It was not long before Crestwood made yet another historic decision. Having been unhappy with the denomination in which they had historically been connected, the Session voted unanimously to lead the congregation OUT of the PCUSA and into the ECO (Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians). In 2015 that process was completed after a four year, difficult struggle with the presbytery. It was decided that Crestwood would pay $1.5 million for the two campuses and exit with its property. While this was hard, it was yet another example of the Crestwood congregation seeking to be faithful to God over what seemed easy. John was a key part of the leadership of this process. When the votes were taken, the vote to leave was approved by a 94% margin and the vote to leave and pay $1.5 million, increased to 96%. That is almost unheard of.
After 38 years with Crestwood and 45 in ministry, John retired as Sr. Pastor on June 1, 2017. Crestwood now turns to a new day with exciting days ahead and very able new leadership at the front backed up by a vibrant staff and congregation. John now enjoys work with The Outreach Foundation, the presbytery of East Central in the ECO, fishing, traveling, preaching at different locations on various Sundays. John and Jenny have now launched themselves into a new stage of life.
Glory Be To God!