Interim Academic Dean
Professor of Constructive Theology (Allen and Dottie Miller Professor of Mission and Peace)
Saint Olaf College, B.A. 1988
Princeton Theological Seminary, M.Div., 1991
University of Chicago, Ph.D., 1998
Joined Eden faculty, 2000
Damayanthi Niles’ writing and research have been focused on constructive and contextual theology. She has taught courses on foundational theology, missiology, and post-colonial thought. She has also served as the research associate of the Christianity in Asia Project at the Centre for Advanced Religious and Theological Studies at Cambridge University, United Kingdom.
Dr. Niles brings to her classes a unique perspective as a “true citizen of the world.” Having lived, worked, and studied in several countries, she can offer international insights and interpretations on theological issues.
“I want my students to understand that the ministry is a creative process. They need to learn from others and apply what they learn to their own lives. I encourage them to ask themselves, ‘what lessons can I learn from this person?’ It’s important to understand that the people that they can learn the most from are the other people they meet on their spiritual journey.”
Through her coursework and class discussion, Professor Niles tries to meet all students where they are. She utilizes an eclectic assortment of texts to help them make the connection.
“I try to show my students another way of thinking. What if you did this, or tried something this way? I also invite them to think deeply about the people we read about in the course of our studies…think about going to the communion table with them.”
Dr. Niles was inducted into the Martin Luther King Collegium of Scholars at Morehouse College in 2008. In 2014 she served as a member of the Steering Committee of the Association of Asian/North American Theological Educators. She was a part of the leadership team for the 2014-15 Wabash Center workshop for Pre-Tenure Theological School Faculty with Evelyn Parker, Michael Bourgeois, and Francisco Lozada Jr.
She has been a member of the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical Relations (GACER) of the Presbyterian Church USA since 2006 and was Chair of the subcommittee on Interfaith Relationships for GACER 2007-2012.
Her publications include Worshipping At the Feet of Our Ancestors: Hendrik Kraemer and the Making of Contextual Theology in South Asia, Wein: Lit; UK: Distribution, Global Book Marketing, 2012 and “It’s Time to Dance With Dragons” International Review of Mission, Vol 100.2, No. 393, November 2011.
A frequent lecturer, Dr. Niles has expertise in Asian theology and missiology. Her areas of interest and teaching include constructive theology, inter-faith, comparative theology, theology and power, contextual theology with a particular interest in Asia, language of theology in a landscape of conflict and violence, using aesthetics in the teaching of theology. In her spare time she enjoys cooking, particularly Asian curries. She also enjoys music, reading, and theater. She is an ordained Minister of the Word and Sacrament, Presbyterian Church (USA).