Dudley, 76, died April 22 at his Hartford home of heart disease.
A graduate of Cornell University, Union Theological Seminary in New York, and McCormick Theological Seminary, Dudley served pastorates in Buffalo, N.Y., and St. Louis, where he championed small church and urban ministry and developed strategies for connecting congregations with their communities that have been widely implemented and emulated over the decades.
In 1973 he joined the faculty of McCormick Theological Seminary as professor of church and community. He moved to Hartford Seminary in 1993, where he taught and conducted research until well after his retirement.
Dudley wrote or edited 16 books, including the seminal Making the Small Church Effective and Community Ministry. He was an active member of the Congregational Studies Team, a founding member of the Chicago Area Group for the Study of Religious Communities, and was active in many other research and academic organizations.
Throughout his life and career, Dudley was described as a maverick for his unorthodox ways and his open challenges to the status quo. But his academic discipline and perseverance in pursuing his proven methods made him a great leader in the church and the community.
Dudley is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Shirley; five children — Nathan, Rebecca, Deborah, Andrew, and Stephen and their spouses and nine grandchildren.