Shelly, Andrew B. (1834-1913)

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Andrew B. Shelly, (1834-1913) was an outstanding leader in the Eastern District Mennonite Conference and in the General Conference Mennonite Church for 50 years, from about 1865 until his death. His leadership was revered in his pastoral ministry, his district conference activities, and in his many tasks in the General Conference. He was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, on 23 September 1834, the only son and oldest child of Joseph and Elizabeth Bauer Shelly. His great-great-great-grandfather on both his father's and mother's side was Abraham Shelly, who with his two brothers immigrated to the United States from Switzerland about 1720.

Shelly always enjoyed studying, having an inquisitive mind. At the age of seven he went to the parochial school conducted by the West Swamp Church for one year and then went to public school during the winters until he was nineteen. He worked on his father's farm during these summers. After this he began to teach. He further prepared himself for teaching by going to an academy for nine months. He taught school until 1863, when he devoted all of his time to farming. Another of his activities in this period was teaching "singing school." On 15 October 1858, Shelly married Fannie Weinberger, daughter of Joseph and Mary Shelly Weinberger. They had three sons and two daughters, one son and one daughter preceding their parents in death.

Shelly began his work in a local church as a layman. In 1857 he became superintendent of the Sunday school in the West Swamp Mennonite Church. This has been referred to as the first General Conference Mennonite Church (GCM) Sunday school. Later he helped to organize the Sunday School Convention of the Eastern District Conference. The first meeting of this group was held on 2 October 1876. His first contribution to the life of the church in wider circles was in the field of editing and writing. In 1866 he became editor of the Mennonitischer Friedensbote, serving until 1881 when this paper was merged with Zur Heimath and the Christlicher Bundesbote. He served as assistant editor of the new paper until 1884. Seeing the need of an English church paper he urged that one be started. He was on the original board which published the Mennonite, the first issue being printed in October 1885.

Shelly was ordained to the Christian ministry on 25 March 1864, to serve as associate minister to John H. Oberholtzer. He was pastor of the First Mennonite Church of Philadelphia 1869-1871. On 22 August 1872, he was ordained as bishop of the West Swamp, East Swamp, Flatland, and Saucon congregations. He served as pastor at West Swamp throughout his further life and for part of this time he was also pastor of one or more of these other churches. In addition to his work as pastor, he engaged in an unusually large number of conference activities. He was president of the Eastern District Conference 1871-1882 and of the General Conference 1874-1896. He was also active on various boards. His major contribution in this area was his service on the GCM mission board 1874-1911, when he resigned because of his age. He was secretary of this board 1889-1911. He was elected to the educational board at the 1913 session of the General Conference. He attended all the sessions of the General Conference from 1866 to 1913. He died while visiting N. B. Grubb in Philadelphia on the morning of 26 December 1913. The funeral and burial took place on New Year's day of 1914 at the West Swamp Mennonite Church. His wife died on 13 October 1913.

Shelly was said to be conservative yet aggressive in his leadership. He promoted causes even though the church as a whole was not ready for them, such as the organization of the General Conference, the educational program of the church, an English paper, etc. He was said to have been conscientious and painstaking in his pastoral work and always anxious to develop lay leadership.


Grubb, N. B. In Memoriam, Rev. Andrew B. Shelly. Quakertown, 1914.

Krehbiel, H. P. The History of the General Conference of the Mennonite Church of North America II. Newton, 1938.

Krehbiel, H. P. The History of the General Conference of the Mennonites of North America. Canton, 1898.

Mennonite Year Book and Almanac. Berne, 1927.

Author(s) Paul R Shelly
Date Published 1959

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MLA style

Shelly, Paul R. "Shelly, Andrew B. (1834-1913)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 29 Nov 2023.,_Andrew_B._(1834-1913)&oldid=118719.

APA style

Shelly, Paul R. (1959). Shelly, Andrew B. (1834-1913). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 29 November 2023, from,_Andrew_B._(1834-1913)&oldid=118719.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 513-514. All rights reserved.

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