Deanna A. Thompson is Director of the Lutheran Center for Faith, Values and Community and Martin E. Marty Regents Chair in Religion and the Academy. Thompson’s work at St. Olaf focuses on advancing the mission and programming of the Lutheran Center and promoting inter-faith dialogue both within and beyond St. Olaf.
As a white Lutheran theologian, Thompson has addressed white privilege and anti-blackness in dominant forms of American Christianity in her writing (“Calling a Thing What It Is: A Lutheran Approach to Whiteness” in Dialog, 2014), speaking in churches on the topics of white privilege and structural racism in American Christianity, and teaching Contemporary African American Religious Thought for over twenty years. She believes it’s her responsibility as a white Christian to educate herself and others on the historical and present realities of racism in Christianity and to actively work against those structures in her professional and personal life.
The author of five books, Thompson’s Crossing the Divide: Luther, Feminism, and the Cross (Fortress, 2004) was one of the first to bring Martin Luther’s theology into sustained conversation with feminist thought. Since her 2008 diagnosis of incurable cancer, Thompson has written Hoping for More: Having Cancer, Talking Faith, and Accepting Grace (Cascade 2012), a theo-memoir on living with cancer; The Virtual Body of Christ in a Suffering World (Abingdon, 2016) on how digital tools can help the church better live its mission of caring for those who suffer; and Glimpsing Resurrection: Trauma, Cancer, and Ministry (Westminster John Knox, 2018), a text that uses research on illness-related trauma to explore places in the Christian story for those undone by serious illness and help them glimpse resurrection. In 2014 Thompson also published a theological commentary on the biblical book of Deuteronomy for the Westminster John Knox Belief commentary series and was awarded “Reference Book of the Year” by the Academy of Parish Clergy. In addition, Thompson’s writings have appeared in the Huffington Post, Christian Century, Living Lutheran and Gather. She is a sought-after speaker nationally and internationally, speaking recently at McGill University, Wartburg Theological Seminary, Brigham Young University and the University of Victoria, B.C.
Thompson has also held leadership positions in the American Academy of Religion (AAR), serving as President of the AAR’s Upper Midwest Region for six years and on the AAR Board of Directors for eight. Prior to coming to St. Olaf in 2019, she taught religion at Hamline University for more than two decades, and received teaching and scholarship awards from students, faculty, alumni and the Hamline Board of Trustees. In 2016 she was inducted into the Burnsville High School Hall of Fame. When she’s not writing, speaking or teaching, Thompson can be found hiking in a national park with her husband and two children.