Patricia Joyce Shelly


Patricia Joyce Shelly, 71, of Newton, Kan., died Sept. 4, 2023, at home after a three-year struggle with pancreatic cancer.

She was born Dec. 21, 1951, in Chicago to Kenneth and June Rupert Shelly. She lived in Pulaski, Iowa, and Trenton, Ohio, before moving to North Newton, Kan. She was baptized in 1967 at Bethel College Mennonite Church. She earned a degree in Bible and religion from Bethel College in 1976. 

She completed a master of divinity degree at Iliff School of Theology in Denver in 1980. After studying for eight months at the Ecumenical Institute for Advanced Theological Studies (Tantur) in Jerusalem in 1981, she completed a Ph.D. in biblical interpretation at the University of Denver/Iliff School of Theology in 1992. She served as associate pastor at First Mennonite Church in Denver from 1983 to 1985 and was ordained as a Mennonite pastor.

For most of the next three decades, she taught at Bethel College in the Bible and Religion Department and served as campus minister for almost half of that time, with primary responsibility for chapel and worship. From 1996 to 2000, she worked in Jerusalem with Mennonite Central Committee as country director in the West Bank and Gaza.  From 1986 to 2015, she led study tours to Israel/Palestine/Jordan, and in more recent years co-led joint Bethel/Tabor College tours to the same region.

She was a folk musician and composer, producing two albums and two songbooks. Several of her songs have appeared in Mennonite hymnals.

She spoke (and sang) in numerous church and community settings about biblical studies as well as her time in Israel/Palestine. She also spoke extensively in the region about her participation in three meetings with Iranian political and religious leaders. The first meeting in 2007 of an ecumenical, Christian delegation to Iran was followed by two dialogues with Iranian officials in New York at the beginning of United Nations Assembly sessions.

She served on the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board from 2005 to 2017, spending the last two years as moderator of MC USA. She also served as moderator of Western District Conference and on the International Mennonite Peace Committee.

Survivors include her mother, June Shelly of Newton; a sister, Doris (Arthur) Whillock of Newton; and two brothers, Andy (Carmen) Shelly of Lenexa, Kan., and Kenneth John Shelly.

She was preceded in death by her father, Kenneth; and a brother, Timothy.

A memorial service is planned for 11 a.m. Sept. 30 at Bethel College Mennonite Church, livestreamed at

The family suggests memorial gifts to Bethel College or Bethel College Mennonite Church. 

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