S. McDowell Shelton
Former Pastor and General Overseer (1961-1991)
Church of the Lord Jesus of The Apostolic Faith
Samuel McDowell Shelton, a Philadelphia native on April
18, 1929, he was the youngest of his siblings and was
raised by his maternal grandparents, Elder A.D. and
Mother Ada McDowell. He was educated in the Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, school system and received his Bachelor
of Arts degree in Sociology from Rutgers University.
He did graduate work at the University of Lisbon, Portugal,
and was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Divinity by Bethune-Cookman
College, in Daytona Beach, Florida.
1962, during the church's National and International
Convention, he was elevated to the helm of the organization.
His ordination came more than a year after the death
of Bishop S. C. Johnson and lengthy court battles that
were prompted from within the organization. Brother
Shelton was elevated to Bishop and General Overseer
of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic
Faith at age 33.
to assuming the top leadership role of the church, he
was prominent and heavily involved in the initial development
of the administrative structure of the organization.
Bishop Shelton is credited for bringing the church to
a "debt-free" status, paying off enormous
debt from investments made by the previous administration.
His formal education, worldwide pilgrimages, and his
ability to communicate effectively with all levels of
mankind brought a new level of respect and dignity to
the church organization. Bishop Shelton was granted
audience with a myriad of global leaders, including
Heads of State, such as His Majesty, King Hussein of
Jordan; His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor Haille Selassie
of Ethiopia; His Eminence, Pope Paul VI at the Vatican
in Rome; Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India, and
Shelton was a staunch supporter of education and as
former president of the National Young People's Department,
he founded and dedicated the Apostolic Institute in
1967, as well as the Apostolic Summer Youth Work program.
He was very dedicated to his ministry and always looked
for avenues to enlarge the church's name in the community.
While gaining the respect of communities across the
United States and in targeted foreign lands, he also
engaged his members in tasks that kept them productive
and striving for personal excellence. As a means of
support for our senior citizens, Apostolic Village was
built in 1971; it is a 32-unit independent living apartment
complex that was built by the membership and stands
today as a vital part of Apostolic Square. Under Bishop
Shelton's leadership and with the skill and talent of
the members exclusively, new churches were built in
Newark, New Jersey, and Ellendale, Delaware. Many other
existing buildings and properties were both purchased
and renovated under his dynamic leadership.
had no biological children of his own, Bishop Shelton
legally adopted individuals from upstanding Apostolic
families which he trained and groomed many for the priesthood,
although familial ties are not a pre-requisite to assuming
leadership in the church organization. Among his careful
selection of those who were adopted, was the church's
current General Overseer, Bishop Omega, youngest of
eight legal adoptions.
decade of the 1980's was quite tumultuous for Bishop
Shelton and his congregation, largely due to an ensuing
illness. However, he remained quite charismatic, keenly
perceptive, and faithful to his church as his travel
schedule and personal appearances gradually declined.
During Bishop Shelton's administration, the membership
gained a higher level of self-confidence, a greater
awareness of the world around them, and the desire to
enhance their personal development. Many of these attributes
were acquired during such memorable sermons as "Miracles
Like Success Seldom Just Happen, You Must Help Them
To Come To Pass," "Why Pray?" "The
Past Is Already Gone, The Future Is Not Yet," and
"It Can Be Done!"
Shelton passed away at home in Philadelphia on October
13, 1991, after a long battle with complications related