Dr. Lloyd Steffen: Biography

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Lloyd Steffen is Professor of Religion Studies and University Chaplain at Lehigh University.  He is also director of the Dialogue Center and the Lehigh Prison Project.

            From the Midwest, Steffen received his undergraduate degree in History from New College in Sarasota, Florida.  New College offered an accelerated three year curriculum, evaluations rather than grades and tutorial education emphasizing independent study and research.  While there Steffen took part in an innovative social science program called Project REAL, which allowed students to apply theory to practice in a “real world” setting, and Steffen was involved in legal research for the United Farm Workers.  He represented New College on the board of the local Community Action Agency, a local arm of the federal war on poverty program; and following graduation he deferred law school and took “gap year,” joining the Fire Department of the City of Bradenton.  Steffen went to firefighter’s school and was trained and certified a professional firefighter in the State of Florida.  An unusual opportunity arose that allowed him to move to Boston to try out theological studies, and he subsequently received two masters degrees with honors, an M.A. from Andover Newton Theological School and the M.Div. from Yale Divinity School.  He then went on to receive his Ph.D. in the Religious Studies (Western Religious Thought) at Brown University, studying philosophy of religion, ethics and philosophical psychology.  He wrote his dissertation on the topic of self-deception.

            Steffen is ordained in the United Church of Christ.  He served as campus chaplain and as a professor and chair of the program in Philosophy and Religion at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin.  While at Northland, Steffen lived on Madeline Island in Lake Superior, where he was originally appointed then twice elected to the Town Board of Supervisors.  In 1990 he and his family moved to Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

            Steffen is the author or editor of eleven books in ethics and moral philosophy, and he has addressed such topics as the death penalty, abortion, the ethics of war and end-of-life ethics.  His book, Ethics and Experience:  Moral Theory from Just War to Abortion, lays out a distinctive “natural law” approach to ethics that integrates different theoretical approaches to ethics. Steffen teaches a wide variety of courses that focus on ethics and values in religious life, and among recent offerings are “Religion, Law and the Constitution,” “Explorations in Dialogue" (included a trip to Israel), “Global Ethics, Global Religion,” and “From the Black Death to AIDS:  Plague, Pandemic, Religion and Ethics.”

            Steffen contributes to professional and scholarly journals, but also writes for wider audiences.  He currently writes a “Faith and Values” column for the Allentown-based paper, The Morning Call.  He served for nine years on the Board of The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and was that organization’s vice chair for two terms, secretary for two terms and for six years their NGO representative to the United Nations.  He served on the National Leadership Council of American United for Separation of Church and State. Steffen has been on the Ethics Committee of St. Luke’s Hospital in Fountain Hill, PA for several years, and he has served in various capacities in the community and at Lehigh, including two terms as chair of the Religious Studies Department.  Active in a variety of professional organizations, including an international Dying and Death conference he helped to organize, Steffen has been a Coolidge Fellow, a recipient of Mellon Foundation funding and he has received support for his research in several programs funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.  In 2018 he was named a Fulbright Specialist and he led seminars on punishment and moral obligation at two Brazilian universities, UNISINOS in Sao Leopaldo and Universidad Federale Pelotas in Pelotas. He has lectured widely, having delivered several endowed lectures, including at Cornell University and The College of William and Mary, and at events at the National Press Club, the United Nations, as well as in international settings such as Oxford University and the London School of Economics.

            Steffen is married to Rev. Emmajane Finney, and they have three sons, Nathan, Sam and Will.  An acoustic guitarist, singer-songwriter and long time member of the band, “Religion and Cash,” Steffen is a frequent “open mic” performer at Godfrey Daniels, a well-known listening room on Bethlehem’s south side. (Some Steffen demos available at https://myspace.com/religionandcash/music/songs).

            His current research is focused on dying and death, moral beauty and issues of  environmental concern.