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Charlie Shedd

Charlie Shedd: Pastor & Author

For many years Charlie Shedd served as the “class agent” for the class of ‘37.  He wrote an annual newsletter for the class and on at least one occasional wrote a letter to class members encouraging them to contribute money to Coe.  To help class agents with this project, the development sent them drafts of a form letter, inviting the agents to offer any revisions in the wording.  Charlie Shedd’s skills as a writer and editor is immediately evident in the letter he returned to the Alumni Office.  He inserted eight corrections, all improvements.  He trimmed 33 excess words (for example, replacing “you and I as alumni” with “we”) and revised the campaign’s original motto–“we must give more and more must give”–into a neatly phrased chiasmus:  “more must give and we must give more.”  It’s easy to see why he became one of American’s most prolific and successful authors in the 20th century.

Education: McCormick Presbyterian Seminar & University of Chicago Divinity School

Pastor for churches in Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia, California, Hawaii, Florida, and Pennsylvania..  In 1955, he founded the Memorial Drive Presbyterian in Houston with 50 members meeting in a borrowed schoolroom.  Thirteen years later, when he left the congregation, the church had over 3,000 members, a church famous for its policy of giving one dollar to charity for every dollar they raised to spend on their church.  Left Houston church so he could devote more time to writing.  But didn’t want to give up pastorate, she he accepted appointment with a small congregation on Jekyll Island.  “Going from more than 3000 members to 67 is the right way to go.  I feel like a shepherd again instead of a racher.”

While at Memorial Drive that his writing career really took off.  He had done some writing before: his first article was on a furniture-making project that he sold to Popular Mechanics: “That was when I discovered you could have fun writing about something you like and get paid for it.”  His first popular book came in 1957: How To Pray Your Weight Away.  Shedd had a weight problem, weighing over 300 pounds; he found his solution through religious fasting.  After several years of writing without much success, this book brought together two popular fields of non-fiction: self-help books and religious/inspiration books (plus the pun of a book on weight loss by someone named Charlie Shedd–New York publishers assumed it was a pseudonym).

As a minister he took one day off per week for writing.  Every Tuesday he went to a motel room and wrote all day.

In 1965: Abingdon Press published Letters to Karen, advice from father to daughter as she entered matrimony.  Selected by Reader’s Digest for its condensed book series.  Enormous success.  That’s when they created the Abundance Foundation.

Author: 37 books (as of 1991).  Last book: “Remember I Love You–Martha’s Story”

Books translated into 20 languages

Seven books on marriage, including Celebration in the Bedroom and Two multi-million sellers: Letters to Karen & Letters to Philip.  Books for young people (e.g., The Stork Is Dead and How To Know If You’re Really In Love), idea books for Churches (e.g., How To Develop a Tithing Church and How to Develop a Praying Church), eight books intended for parents and grandparents (e.g., The Best Dad Is a Good Lover and Tell Me a Story: Stories for Grandchildren), and books for helping people manage their lives (The Fat Is in Your Head and Word Focusing: A New Way to Pray).  Brush of an Angel’s Wing (‘97)

“I think maybe I know why my books sell like popcorn.  Every author likes to think he’s a good writer, that his books have merit.  But I suspect another reason why mind do so well is that the Lord knows he’s going to get half.

TV appearances: Donahue, Today, PM Magazine, Merv Griffin

Film series: based on their Fun in Marriage Workshops

Expert woodworker: builder of playhouses, toys, furniture; frequent contributor to wood working magazines

Columns: “Sex and Dating” (Teen Magazine) - column so popular that Shedd was swamped with mail.  He organized volunteer in his Houston church to answer over 25,000 letters, making sure that every correspondent received a person letter of response.

                “The Meat of the Coconut” (ran 8 years in the Houston Post)

                “Strictly for Dads” (national newspaper column for Universal Press Syndicate)

Workshop Titles: “The Seasons of Life” (from childhood and courtship to marriage and death), “Fun in Marriage,” “How to Know if You’re Really in Love,” “What Makes Some Women so Attractive” (study of the Book of Ruth), “The Best Dad Is a Good Lover,” “You Are a Beautiful Person” (exploration of Psalm 139), “If I Can Write You Can Write.”


Personal details:

7 children

Married to Martha for 48 years.  Then married Diane, a Methodist minister.

Charlie met Martha on an ice-skating pond.  Both from Cedar Falls.  Sweethearts from their early teens. Married in 1939 (he was in last year of Chicago Divinity School and she was teaching English in a small town in Iowa.

Charlie began writing when he lost his voice due to a throat tumor. 

Ending to his letters: “As my Gulla friends of South Carolina say: May the Lord bless you uncommonly good.”

The Abundance Foundation, founded in 1966.  Foundation provides grants for hunger relief around the world, primarily focusing on the purchase of animals as breeding stock..  Money provided by the Foundation was used to supply dairy herds in Zaire, bulls in Brazil, milking buffalo in Philippines, cows in Ghana and Gambia, rabbits in Nigeria, cattle for a Leper colony in Kora, mules for a village in Thailand, and chickens for families in Haiti, sheep in Arizona, pigs in Oklahoma.  Foundation is funded by 50% of the royalties from books and media income from the Shedds’ projects.

“The Charlie Shedd Institute of Clinical Theology (ICT) was established in 1991 to promote activities in the fields of professional counseling and pastoral counseling which specifically address Christian character formation.”


Shedd philosophy:

From article by Walt Sutton in Presbyterian Survey (Oct ‘91)

Sex, love, and marriage belong together: “married sex is a God-given, healthy, happy part of life.  But they think communication–openness in personal relationships–also is a God-given, healthy, happy part of life, so they talk about sex, love and marriage directly, plainly and without embarrassment.”  A philosophy based on a favorite quote from Genesis I: “Then God created male and female, and it was excellent in every way.” 

Shedd quote: “Give 10 percent, save 10 percent and spend the rest with thanksigiving and praise.”

“Once, Charlie’s outspokenness about oral sex caused Baptists in Texas to threaten to cancel a speaking engagement for the Shedds.  A reporter called to ask what they would do if it started a wave of cancellations.  Martha, who answered the phone that time, said, “We’ll probably just stay home and make love.”  Result: many more invitations for speaking engagements.

[Another version of the story from Des Moines Registrar article, 9 March ‘82: “The most celebrated case was a few years ago when a Texas Baptist preacher got the Shedds dropped from the speakers list at a big Baptist get-together in Houston.  He had gotten hold of a tape of a session in which Charlie advised a woman who was griping about her husband wanting oral sex to relax a little and enjoy it.”]

In 1980 Shedd retired from full-time ministry to a home on Fripp Island near Frogmore, South Carolina.  Built a new home out of lumber from an old barn.  To devote full time to writing, film, TV appearances, newspaper columns, and seminars.

“One thing we decided real early was that we were not scholars as much as students–students of life, of the Bible, of people.  One thing we were going to do was to keep everything practical–helpful.

From article in the Gazette: 7 Nov ‘76

Shedd, pastor of Presbyterian church on Jekyll Island.  Jimmy Carter & family spent summers there and it was the church the Carters attended.  Performed marriage ceremony for Carters’ son Jack.  In preparation for the ceremony, Jack identified his father as the person who was closer to being a Christian than anybody he knew.  Jack answer his father.  “He gets up every morning and checks everything with the Lord.  At the rehearsal at the governor’s mansion, Sheed shared that story.  “Jimmy Carter got tears in his eyes and said, “I’d rather hear my son say that about me than be President.’”

From Pam Fruehling article in Gazette, 23 March ‘80

“‘The church has sinned against society in the past by teaching that everything is good except sex,’ said Shedd.

“Early religious training, he continued, can be an obstacle to a liberated sexual relationship.  Couples need to accept the truth that God made sex and made it good.

“‘A whole lot of society needs to discard what was taught at home,’ emphasized Shedd.  ‘Sex is not a happening, it’s a creation.’”

“He said rereading the Bible with a positive frame of mind will lead people to the correct conclusion that sex is a gift of God.  The best sex education, he added, comes from married couples who love each other deeply and aren’t afraid to let their children know it.

“The Shedds believe that Christians should be sexier than anyone because they know that sex at its best is a spiritual union between a couple and God.  They urge couples to go ahead and celebrate their creation.

“‘Anything a couple wants to do in marriage, if it is not physically, mentally or psychologically damaging can be part of the celebration,’ they write.

“Their contention that exciting, fulfilling sex takes place only between married couples is based on their feelings that the basis of satisfying sex is total commitment.

“‘Sex is a 20-year warm-up, not a one night stand,’ said Shedd.  ‘The average guy is interested in quantity, while the average gal is concerned about quality.  It sometimes takes years to get the balance right.’”

“The Shedds attribute their marital bliss to a covenant made years ago to spend one day a week talking about real things, like feelings.”              


Shedd had two half-brothers, Philip & Paul.  Paul was still living as of ‘68.  Both Coe alums.  Philip, a minister, died in 1920.  Paul, class of ‘17, was also a minister at one time a missionary in Persia.


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