Officer Joshua Shelton, 33, remembers the time he saw his first homicide victim. It was a young, Black male who had been shot and killed and left dying on his feet in the vestibule of his apartment building, while his family, including a small child, was just upstairs.
“[That] was something I couldn’t get out of my head for a long time,” Shelton recalled. “This man had died standing up, and his family was just upstairs. We had the fire department escort them out of the building, using a ladder, through a window. We couldn’t let them see him like that, or see the blood, or the crime scene. For a long time, I couldn’t get this victim out of my mind. I had to pray about it constantly.”
Shelton, who is pursuing a Masters’ Degree in Urban Leadership at Northern Seminary’s South Side Center for Urban Leadership, works full-time as the faith-based liaison with the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) 7th District in the Englewood neighborhood. It is a community he grew up in as a child. He is the youngest police officer in the City’s history to serve as CPD’s faith-based liaison, a job in which he takes great pride. Shelton is a preacher’s kid, whose passion for evangelism was expressed through music ministry. His father, Dennis Shelton is senior pastor of Anointed Work Worship Center and continues to mentor his son who serves under his Dad’s leadership as first assistant pastor of their faith community.
And, if the younger Shelton’s work in law enforcement and active ministry isn’t enough, he is a married father with three children.
He is a 2008 graduate of Southern Illinois University with an undergraduate degree in sociology; he earned a Masters Degree in Christian Theology from Olivet Nazarene University.
The soft-spoken officer said it was his work in the 7th District that led him to the next phase of his pedagogical journey, when he was invited to enroll in Northern Seminary’s South Side campus, located in the old Hirsch High School at 7740 S. Ingleside in Chicago’s Chatham neighborhood.
Students enrolled in the program engage with complex social and cultural issues facing urban communities, including systemic racism, poverty, violence, and incarceration. Shelton said he was encouraged to pursue the program by one of his mentors, Dr. Gerald Dew, senior pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Englewood, and director of the South Side Center and affiliate professor of ministry.
Dr. Dew saw something in me and so he encouraged me to pursue this degree with an understanding of what I faced as a police officer in an urban community,” said Shelton.
The Northern Seminary Masters in Urban Leadership program helps students build on a foundation of biblical knowledge, theology, and church history, and the history of the urban church in America. Leading practitioners in urban ministry train students in preaching, evangelism, conflict mediation, and pastoral care.
“The South Side Center strengthens pastors and church leaders who are already transforming lives through the power of the gospel and the ministry of the local church. Northern Seminary walks beside them as mutual encouragers: providing biblical training, a network of community support, and curriculum written for the South Side,” said Northern Seminary President Dr. William D. Shiell.
Officer Shelton said he is proud to be an ‘ambassador’ for Northern Seminary’s urban program. “It has helped me deal with the conflicts between God’s law and man’s law everyday as a police officer. You look at people as who they are, because that’s how God sees us.”