Vancouver School of Theology

Forming thoughtful, engaged and generous Christian leaders for the church in the 21st century


The Rev. Dr. Canon Travis O’Brian

Educational Background

M.A. and PhD in Philosophy from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. Completed PhD in 2003; Travis wrote his dissertation exploring the relationship of love, faith, and metaphysics in the writings of Søren Kierkegaard. Travis was ordained to the Anglican priesthood in 2005; and alongside his work as Director of Anglican Studies at VST is also Rector of St Barnabas Anglican Church in Victoria.

Area of teaching specialty

Travis is ‘Director of Anglican Studies,’ at VST.   With his background in philosophical theology, he loves to bring a self-searching, question-asking, and large-brush approach to the questions of Anglican history, identity, worship, and purpose within the whole of God’s church.

What makes you passionate about teaching?

The question that faces us today, not only as a Church, but as a human race, is whether our faith has indeed something hopeful to speak into the crisis of western civilization we are now facing. What is the nature of that crisis? May we characterize it, above all, as a spiritual crisis? What is the word God may be calling us to witness into this crisis? These are the questions we need to ask; and in what better arena than a classroom of people discerning a ‘serious call’ to the Christian life in a world whose spiritual crisis is taking on life-and-death proportions.

What kind of student do you love having in your class?

Students who desire to learn within what I was taught by St Augustine to call a ‘hermeneutic of love’: a deeply searching, honest-making way of thinking that is ultimately desirous to understand within the tradition of faith we have been given – not naively, but knowing that we have received the Gospel in its light.

What challenges do students face today that may represent new challenges with respect to changes in practice of education?

The old ‘seminary’ model, where individuals were formed for ordained ministry by the practise of gathering for daily offices, frequent Eucharist, times of breaking bread together and sharing a common life, is more and more difficult to sustain in today’s culture. This at a time when Christian leaders and congregations will increasingly be challenged to witness ‘Christian life’ and practise as a genuine alternative to the dominant culture. What does ‘formation’ mean in this context? How will we learn to practise a communal rule of Christian life – not only in the world, but for the world?

What give you hope for the Church?

The wonder and infinite surprise is – the Spirit of God has been at work in the church in spite of our all-too human history. We are the vehicle of a Word beyond our language; a love beyond our values; of a justice beyond our politics; grace beyond our purposes. It could just be that God is now preparing his people to move into a new idiom within the life of the Church – beyond the institutional structures that we have learnt to equate with ‘The Church’ itself. That to me is exciting. It will certainly mean losses of things we love. It will certainly require faithfulness enough to walk the way of the Cross. But it is that way that the only real hope has always been.


The Rev. Dr. Canon Travis O’Brian has a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy and English from the University of British Columbia.  He earned both his Masters and Ph.D. degrees in Philosophy from the Higher Institute of Philosophy (Hoger Instituut vor Vijsbegeerte) at the Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven in Belgium.  His doctoral thesis was written on the Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard, and most of his academic publications have been in the area of Kierkegaard studies.  Travis has also studied at McGill University, Wycliffe Hall (Oxford), and finished his preparation for ordination at VST.

Concurrent with his position as Director of Anglican Formation:  Travis is rector of St Barnabas Anglican Church, in Victoria B.C.  St Barnabas is a parish that for 125 years has worshipped and practised in the Anglo-Catholic inheritance of Christian witness.  This tradition has always stressed the sacramental unity of word and flesh, spirit and matter.  Its prophetic insight is that worship forms us into communities of visible love.  Before serving at St Barnabas, Travis served at Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria.

Travis was an active member of the Diocesan Ministry and Resource Team for the Diocese of B.C.  Over a five year period, the DMRT studied the diocesan parishes and regions before making recommendations toward a spiritual and material transformation of the Diocese, later helping to implement those recommendations.   Travis has in the past served as a member of the Board of Governors of VST.

In his spare time, Travis pursues his love of literature through the writing of poetry.  He currently has a manuscript under review.

Travis is married to Jasmin, who is the Community Minister at St Barnabas.  Together they have four children.

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