Portland Seminary Remembers the Legacy of Dr. Larry Shelton

It is with heavy hearts we share that Larry Shelton (ThD), beloved minister and scholar of Wesleyan theology, peacefully passed away on Wednesday morning, Jan 22, 2020. Shelton was Emeritus Professor of Wesleyan Theology at Portland Seminary of George Fox University.

Shelton was born on January 10, 1942 and graduated as the valedictorian from Pfeiffer College in 1964 with a BA in English. He went to Asbury Seminary, completing both his MDiv and ThM. He earned his Doctor of Theology (ThD) from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1974, studying under renowned biblical theologian George Elden Ladd. Shelton served forty-four years in Christian undergraduate and graduate education at four Christian colleges and universities. He retired in 2013 as the Richard B. Parker Professor of Wesleyan Theology at (then) George Fox Evangelical Seminary, and was promoted to emeritus professor status.

Picture of Dr. Larry Shelton

Shelton was a productive scholar in the field of Wesleyan holiness, particularly in relation to the tropes of covenant and atonement. True to his desire to present theology within an explicit cultural frame, he published his monograph, Cross and Covenant: Interpreting the Atonement for 21st Century Mission (Paternoster, 2006). He also published in The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Asbury Journal of Theology, Aldersgate Papers: A Wesleyan Journal of Theology and presented papers at the American Academy of Religion. In recognition of his academic career, Shelton was presented with a festschrift, Covenant-Making: The Fabric of Relationship (Wipf and Stock, 2014; available as an ebook from the George Fox library) from his colleagues. The first chapter of this collected volume includes a biographical chapter by Dr. MaryKate Morse, “The Man behind the Curtain: Who Is this Covenant Theologian?” Some of the particularly insightful quotes by Shelton include:

  • “I remember in 9th grade I realized that I couldn’t go to football or baseball games because they were worldly amusements.”
  • “I was bothered by the inconsistences of external issues like women not cutting their hair or wearing makeup and jewelry, yet men could have expensive watches and suits and cars. The issue of consistency was a theme that mattered to me.”
  • “I was John Wimber’s first theology professor after he converted. We formed a bond through his college years. He took several courses from me and the mentoring was both ways.”

Alongside his academic interests, Shelton was deeply devoted to the church. He served on the pastoral staff of three churches, including First Wesleyan Church in High Point (NC), Eastside Foursquare Church in Bothell, and Newberg Free Methodist Church.

“Larry Shelton was a thoughtful scholar and devoted teacher. He welcomed me as a new professor in 2008. We will all miss him, though his legacy will continue in the students he taught and the congregants for whom he cared,” said Roger Nam, Dean of Portland Seminary.

“Larry Shelton saw the potential impact that the worldview and theology of Indigenous thinkers could bring to his own seminary community. Over the years, many students benefitted from this integrative partnership. They, and I, will always be grateful for his influence,” said Randy Woodley, Distinguished Professor of Faith and Culture.

Shelton enjoyed activities with his family, hiking, fishing, hunting, and the outdoors in general. He is survived by his wife, Vangie, his daughters Alison and Anna, his son-in-laws, Dima and Martin, and grandchildren, Koyla, Sasha, Kaia, and Caden.