Dr. Donald Luidens of the Hope College faculty presented the 1999 Tollefson Lecture at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, on Monday, Nov. 15.
Luidens, who is professor of sociology and chair
of the department at Hope, presented "Through a Glass,
Darkly: Christianity 2000 and Beyond." In conjunction with
his visit, he also led workshops for students and local
Buena Vista's annual Robert and Barbara Tollefson
Lectureship in Reformed Theology is named in honor of Dr.
Robert Tollefson, who was professor of religion and
philosophy at the university from 1960 to 1992, and his wife
Barbara. The series, established by their children and
friends, seeks to provide students with the opportunity to
explore the relationship of the Christian faith to
contemporary concerns. Buena Vista was founded by the
Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1891.
In his address, Luidens examined the demographic
and attitude shifts that he feels are behind the on-going,
30-year decline in mainline Protestant membership, and
considered a variety of scholarly interpretations of the
reasons for the decline and ways to combat it. He noted
that many of the same shifts are beginning to affect more
traditional, non-mainline churches in a similar fashion as
they come to terms with modernity and its challenges.
He also presented signs that he believes
demonstrate the vitality of mainline Protestantism in the
face of social and cultural changes. He feels that the
adaptive signs suggest considerable flexibility and long-
term viability among mainline churches as they face the new
Luidens has been a member of the Hope faculty
since 1977. He has been studying membership trends in
mainline Protestantism for more than two decades, and is co-
author of the book "Vanishing Boundaries: The Religion of
Mainline Protestant Baby Boomers," which received the 1994
"Distinguished Book Award" from the Society for the
Scientific Study of Religion."
He is a 1969 Hope graduate. He holds a master of
divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a
master's and a doctorate in sociology from Rutgers