St. Olaf News
Nordstrom-Loeb to deliver spring Mellby Lecture
April 3, 2014
St. Olaf College Associate Professor of Sociology Bruce Nordstrom-Loeb will use the spring Mellby Lecture to share his research on evangelical megachurches.
His April 7 lecture, titled “Dilemmas of Faith and Family among Megachurch Evangelicals,” will be streamed live and archived online.
Nordstrom-Loeb spent a year studying 16 conservative Protestant megachurches in Minnesota, looking at their concerns about marriage and family in general and same-sex marriage in particular.
“The study was during the same year that Minnesotans voted on whether to ban same-sex marriage and the legislature later made same-sex marriage legal in the state, so it was a time when marriage and families were much on people’s minds,” he says.
Only a third of the megachurches Nordstrom-Loeb studied were actively involved in the conversation about same-sex marriage, but nearly all had extensive programming to encourage marriage and family life in general.
“My sense was that they are worried about the decline of the traditional family in the U.S. and that their efforts are much more often put into supporting traditional heterosexual marriage than working against same-sex marriage,” he says.
He hopes that his lecture will give audience members a clearer idea of what evangelical megachurches are like; how worries about same-sex marriage have been important in recent decades in the political arena; the social trends that are making it more difficult for people to have a more or less traditional marriage; and some prospects for the ways conservatives and liberals who are concerned about families might work together.
Nordstrom-Loeb earned his baccalaureate degree from the University of Michigan and spent a summer with a Quaker-based civil rights project in Alabama before earning his master’s degree from Harvard University in 1968. He went on to earn his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, before joining the St. Olaf faculty in 1982.
The Mellby Lectures
The annual Mellby Lectures are named in remembrance of St. Olaf faculty member Carl A. Mellby and were established in 1983 to give professors the opportunity to share their research with the public. Mellby, known as “the father of social sciences” at St. Olaf, started the first courses in economics, sociology, political science, and art history at the college. He was professor and administrator from 1901 to 1949, taught Greek, German, French, religion, and philosophy, and is credited with creating the college’s honor system.