Janet is an Assistant Professor of Public and Pastoral Leadership; Director of Denominational Formation (United Church of Canada) at the Vancouver School of Theology.
Janet Gear is an ordained minister in the United Church of Canada. She preaches, teaches and leads retreats within the BC Conference. Janet has served Presbytery, Conference, General Council and ecumenical committees for over thirty years, primarily in three areas: education for ministry and leadership, social justice and community organizing, and theology and faith. She was appointed to the Theology and Faith Committee of the General Council in its writing of the church’s most recent statement of faith (2006 A Song of Faith).
In the tradition of Canadian critical theology and British practical theology, Janet’s work aims at encouraging participation in the interdisciplinary commitment to the common good. Janet’s teaching follows the tradition of Dorothee Soelle and Sallie McFague, and stresses the relationship between the spiritual and the ethical. Informed by Sharon Daloz Park’s Whidbey Institute, Janet develops curricula for vocations in public and pastoral leadership. Her research interests include radical theology and inquiry into best practices for leadership formation. In the 2012-2013 academic year, Janet lived in the UK where she pursued her interest in education and formation for community-based ministry (Fresh Expressions, Mission Shaped Ministry).
- Master of Arts (Systematic Theology), Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, CA (1996)
- Master of Divinity, Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, CA (1995)
- Bachelor of Arts (Linguistics), University of British Columbia (1986)
- Doctoral Studies (Systematic Theology), Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA (1997-99)
I studied at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA in the early 1990s. I was formed for those studies by a decade of activism in the ecumenical social justice community. THAT education was the foundation for the theological education I pursued at the GTU.
Area of teaching specialty
Practical Theology (where what we believe hits the ground, shapes how we live, and gives us the next round of questions) and United Church Formation (the shape we take on when we live and lead with faith among people in this denomination).
What makes you passionate about teaching?
Communities of teaching and learning are hubs of creativity and transformation. They are places of beauty and hope. There is nowhere better to be than in the company of learning.
What kind of student do you love having in your class?
The students who ask questions that are too big to answer in a lifetime, who labour under the weight of worthy questions and audacious hopes.
Current academic projects
My academic projects find their way into church in the form of two projects: 1) I am listening, presenting and writing about the varied theological landscape in United Church congregations. 2) I collaborate with others who situate their work in the nexus of contemplation and action, the relationship between the inner and the outer life.
What challenges do students face today that may represent new challenges with respect to changes in practices of education?
The greatest challenge we face together as teachers and learners is to shape our work for communities rather than for individuals. Faith, service, civic life, public worship – all of these are collective endeavours. Leadership is an activity, not a personality trait. Little, if anything, for which the world yearns – peace, reconciliation, healing, love – can be fostered outside communities.
What gives you hope for church?
Faith gives me hope for the church. Of course, I feel hopeful about the church for many reasons – its courage to remain constant, its willingness to turn around, and its humility in both.
What advise or guidance would you give to students thinking about coming to VST?
Talk to us. No one navigates a vocation of love alone. We’re in this together. Your path matters to us, no matter where it starts and where it leads.