Wednesday, 19 November 2008


AMMAN, JORDAN -- The world of Christian journalism has lost one of its great pioneers and characters, Dr. Sherwood Eliot Wirt, the founder of Billy Graham’s Decision magazine, also the San Diego Christian Writers Guild.
“Woody”, as he was known to his many friends, passed away at the age of 97 in the early morning of November 8, 2008. His wife Ruth told friends that he had “slipped away in his sleep."
Dr. Wirt, was also the author of 42 books including “Billy: A Personal Look at Billy Graham.”
He was born in 1911 and served as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, pastored several churches, and held Ph.D.'s in theology and psychology from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland (Class of '51).
Dr. Wirt was originally a newspaper journalist, but eventually became the founding editor of 'Decision,' a monthly magazine which Billy Graham established in the 1960s and which is still in circulation today. In 1978 he founded the San Diego Christian Writers Guild.
Dr. Wirt is known to have ministered and traveled with Dr. Graham for nearly 40 years. As a friend, Dr. Wirt knew Mr. Graham intimately and not just as a public figure.
A spokesperson for the San Diego Christian Writers Guild (SDCWG) said, “We will always be grateful to Woody for his friendship and the many things he taught us! After 97 years on earth, he is with the Lord!
“Woody had a vision to help Christian writers learn how to effectively communicate through the written word and get published while doing it!” the spokesperson added. “He started the first critique group that year. A small group of writers met monthly to help each other through constructive critiquing of each other’s work. That one group eventually grew into a network of meetings all over San Diego County and eventually into Orange, Los Angeles and Riverside counties.
"Today, in San Diego, ten groups meet regularly. One of the original groups, from East [San Diego] county, has been meeting for over twenty years and every member has been successfully published many times.”
I first met Woody Wirt in 1968 in London at Billy Graham’s UK offices, where I was working for The Christian and he had come over from Minneapolis to work on the UK version of Decision.

Ruth and Sherwood WirtMany years later, after I had moved to the United States and he had retired to the sunshine of San Diego, we began running writer’s seminars ogether, which was a “trip for me, as he was so lovingly eccentric in his presentations. I remember he had one talk about the “Seven Essential Tools of a Writer” which he said included owning a typewriter. I had to point out to him that in this computer age, most of his audience wouldn’t know what a typewriter was.
Most of our seminars were under the auspices of Mike MacIntosh of Horizon Christian Fellowship in San Diego who would hold his “Festival of Life” outreaches in different parts of the world and include a writer’s seminar with the two of us.
Woody was a humble person and yet he secured a real scoop that any journalist would have loved to have had. He did the very last interview wit CS Lewis before Lewis died.

He eventually left San Diego for Bothell, Washington, where he died. His memorial service will be held on December 5 at 2:00 PM at Westminster Chapel, 13646 NE 24th St., Bellevue, WA 98005.

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