Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne (PhD, ’16) Named 2023 Alum of the Year

Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne (PhD, ’16) Named 2023 Alum of the Year

BERKELEY, CA – November 15, 2023 — The Graduate Theological Union (GTU) is pleased to announce the Right Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne as the 2023 Alum of the Year. In 2016, Rev. Dr. Lansdowne earned her PhD from the GTU in Interdisciplinary Studies.  

At the GTU, Rev. Dr. Lansdowne's scholarly work centered on indigenous epistemologies, delving into Christian missiology. Born in Alert Bay, British Columbia, and a proud member of the Heiltsuk First Nation, Dr. Lansdowne's journey in theological scholarship has been imbued with a deep commitment to an Indigenous way of being in the world. She recently made history as the United Church of Canada’s 44th Moderator, becoming the first Indigenous woman to hold this position. 

“We are deeply appreciative of Rev. Dr. Lansdowne’s significant contributions to the academy, the church, and social justice” said Dr. Jennifer W. Davidson, a fellow alum of GTU’s PhD program, as well as Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the GTU. “Her efforts in addressing concerns of reconciliation, the climate crisis, and economic inequality are truly remarkable. In selecting Rev. Dr. Lansdowne as our Alum of the Year, we honor a distinguished graduate whose life's work embodies the values that lie at the heart of the GTU.” 

Rev. Dr. Lansdowne embarked on her theological journey at the Vancouver School of Theology in 2003, where she earned both a Master of Divinity degree in 2007 and a Master of Theology degree in 2011. Throughout her career, Rev. Dr. Lansdowne has played pivotal roles in various capacities within the United Church of Canada. From her service on the Executive and Central Committees of the World Council of Churches (2006-2013) to her instrumental role in the Pension Board of The United Church of Canada and the Keepers of the Vision of the Sandy Saulteaux Spiritual Centre, she has been a driving force in global theological and church gatherings. She is former chair of the Indigenous Candidacy Board of the United Church and is an integral member of the Board of Directors of the Vancouver Foundation. 

“I feel very humbled to be recognized by the GTU in this way,” said Rev. Dr. Lansdowne. "I think my global ecumenical experience, and even the experience of having lived, studied and worked in multiple contexts throughout the US and Canada have all impacted me and guided me to where I am today. I am and will always be concerned with social justice issues. For the past 5 years or so, my work has been around housing justice, including writing on liberation theology and the housing affordability crisis, and releasing my dissertation in book form in the fall of 2024 with Canadian Mennonite University Press.” 

In 2017, Rev. Dr. Lansdowne assumed the role of Executive Director at the First United Church Community Ministry Society. Under her leadership, she steered the organization towards a remarkable turnaround, significantly enhancing its capacity and stability. Notably, she championed a groundbreaking $95M redevelopment project, expanding the ministry's reach and adding crucial secured non-market Indigenous rental housing units. 

Rev. Dr. Lansdowne's academic pursuits continue to flourish through guest lectures and writing projects. Her affiliation as a Christ Seminar Fellow with the Westar Institute highlights her enduring commitment to theological scholarship. Additionally, she remains devoted to her community, frequently guest preaching at various congregations and upholding her Indigenous way of being. 

Following her term as Moderator, Rev. Dr. Lansdowne will join the faculty at Emmanuel College, Victoria University in the University of Toronto as Assistant Professor of United Church of Canada Studies. 

“I loved my time at the GTU,” Rev. Dr. Lansdowne said. “The biggest impact for me during my studies there was the way in which the core faculty at the GTU in the Interdisciplinary Studies program were so vocationally focused. I remember a saying from them during my first semester: ‘Everyone says they want an interdisciplinarian, but the academy is still very much structured around disciplines. You need to be strategic about where you are going to fit in the world.’ This made my discernment continue about where and what I wanted to teach or write, and really made me focus on the future and not just what I was wanting to read in the moment. That has really served me well to this day.” 

Rev. Dr. Lansdowne will be honored as the 2023 Alum of the Year at a virtual celebration planned for Thursday, December 7 at 5pm PT. Read more about Dr. Lansdowne’s work, and the GTU’s lasting influence on her career, in our interview at GTU Voices.   



About the Graduate Theological Union
Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) is a world leader in the study of religion and theology, as well as a vibrant home for spiritual exploration through online learning opportunities with global reach.   

Through rigorous academic research and active interreligious dialogue, the GTU’s centers of study and wider consortium offer programs that lead to groundbreaking scholarship, with alumni who become thought leaders in their fields.  We offer innovative approaches to advanced study, driven by our core commitment to furthering the causes of ethical leadership, social justice, sustainability, and spiritual care to create more just and peaceful communities worldwide.   

Discover more about our programs and the work of our alum community at