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“A Contested Past: A Religious History
of Hope College, 1945-1987”

excerpts from a document
prepared by James Kennedy and Carol Simon

…Into the early 1960s, Hope College was — at least after the worries and wrangling of the late 1940s, and much as it had been in the 1920s and 1930s — a school that took its Protestant Christian signature more or less for granted. As a result of the Board’s hiring policies of 1951, its Committee on Instruction screened candidates and presented all new faculty for approval to the Board of Trustees, noting up through the mid-1960s each new faculty member’s denominational affiliation. All were Protestants, many were Reformed, and a sizable percentage was from denominations with close kinship to the RCA: Presbyterians, or Christian Reformed. By the early 1960s, non-Reformed Protestants were better represented on the lists. But beyond shutting out non-Protestants, there is little indication that Lubbers or anyone else was as zealous in gate-keeping as Henry Bast, rightly or wrongly, would have wished them to be. It seems likely that alumni and other candidates from the Dutch Reformed “pipeline” were not much vetted at all, since their pedigree was thought sufficient guarantee that they would “fit in” with the school’s religious culture. For “fitting in” was what Lubbers and many others at Hope cared about: They wanted self-selecting faculty who either knew the Protestant college scene or showed promise in adapting to it. That meant being a churchgoer and, at the very least, not being a religious controversialist. It also meant looking and sounding as though one could fit in. Lubbers on one occasion undermined the candidacy of a man seeking employment at another RCA college, writing that, even though he seemed a sincere Christian, he did not look or sound as if he were “the ideal sort of person for a Reformed Church school.” It was this kind of not very reflective Protestantism, often more cultural than religious, that would be challenged at Hope in the course of the 1960s.