Our Middle Name: University Chair in Lutheran Studies

In 2010, a generous donor made possible the establishment of a professorship in Lutheran Studies located within the Department of Religion.  Dr. Samuel Torvend (PLU ’73), professor of Religion was nominated and confirmed by the Board of Regents to serve as the University Professor in Lutheran Studies. In that same year, an additional gift allowed the University Regents to change the professorship to an Endowed Chair in Lutheran Studies. The university is grateful for the work of Dr. Torvend to advance our understanding of the Lutheran tradition, Lutheran higher education and PLU’s mission and identity through his work as Chair.

Dr. Marit Trelstad is the second person to be nominated and confirmed in this endowed University Chair.  Dr. Trelstad is Professor of Religion (Constructive and Lutheran Theologies) and has been teaching at PLU since 2001. Prior to this, she taught at other ELCA colleges and Universities for 7 years including California Lutheran University, Gustavus Adolphus College and Saint Olaf College. Her publications, teaching, scholarly and public lectures focus on the translation of Lutheran theology into our contemporary context and on the confluence of feminist, process and Lutheran theologies. Her interest in contemporary Lutheran theologies began through a church internship in Namibia in 1993 and her study of black, Lutheran liberation theologies in that context.

Dr. Trelstad feels called to the craft of teaching and is deeply engaged in scholarship through publications, conferences and work on steering committees and editorial boards. She has served the American Academy of Religion and many avenues of Lutheran scholars. She has presented papers and participated in the annual meeting of Lutheran Women in Theological and Religious Studies, the Association of Teaching Theologians, and the editorial board of Dialog: A Journal of Theology. She has presented papers at the International Luther Congress in Helsinki, Finland in 2012 and Wittenberg, Germany in 2017. In addition, she has presented scholarship at The Luther Renaissance: Past and Present (Evanston, IL ); Remembering the Past – Living the Future: Lutheran Tradition in Transition (Uppsala, Sweden 2013); Luther from the SubAltern (Aarhus, Denmark 2016, and Berkeley, CA 2017); Embodied Freedom Theological Conference (Minneapolis, MN 2017) and other national and international conferences of Lutheran scholars.  In addition, she has presented papers on feminist, Lutheran theology with Lutheran women theologians in places such Helsinki, Finland; Reykjavik, Iceland; Uppsala, Sweden; Oslo, Norway; Aarhus, Denmark; and Chicago, Illinois. She is one founding member and is committed to the further development of the Global Lutheran Women’s Scholarship Network.  She has served on two doctoral dissertation committees in feminist, Lutheran theology: one for the Graduate Theological Union and one for MF School of Theology in Oslo, Norway.

She has been a public scholar of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America while maintaining ecumenical theological conversations in the academy – primarily in the areas of open and relational theologies, religion and science, black theology, feminist and womanist theologies, and ecotheologies.  One example of this is her book Cross Examinations: Readings on the Meaning of the Cross Today (Fortress, 2006) which The Christian Century claimed as the best theological resource on atonement theologies (2011). She also has chapters in Transformative Lutheran Theologies: Feminist, Womanist and Mujerista Perspectives (2010), Creating Women’s Theology: A Movement Engaging Process Thought (2011), Theologies of Creation: Creation ex Nihilo and its New Rivals (Routledge, 2014), Lutherrenaissance Past and Present (2015), Calming the Storm: Theological and Ethical Perspectives on Climate Engineering (2016) and several articles in Dialog: A Journal of Theology.

She has served the church on a task force of the ELCA and through scholarly conferences, committees, associations and journals associated with the ELCA.  Additionally, she has presented at the ELCA Church Wide Assembly, the Council of Bishops and regional synods and congregations.

She received her B.A. from Saint Olaf College (1989, Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude, and departmental distinction in English), the Master of Systematic Theology degree from Luther Seminary (1994, summa cum laude) and the Doctor of Philosophy from Claremont Graduate University (Philosophy of Religion and Theology) in 2000.

She is the daughter of Rev. John and Carol Trelstad (Nordlie), both graduates of Saint Olaf College (’52 and ’54 respectively).