Sept. 11 , 2006
BY Elaine justice
Jan Love, named in May as the first woman dean of Candler School of Theology, was on campus recently meeting with faculty, staff and students. Love, currently chief executive of the Women’s Division of the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Global Ministries, will begin her tenure Jan. 1, 2007. While on campus, she talked about what drew her to Emory and the priorities that have shaped her life.
Emory Report: What motivated you to come to Candler as dean?
Jan Love: The turning point for me was the vision articulated by President Wagner and Provost Lewis. They grasp the challenges not only in higher education, but in the whole of society in a way that’s rare and incredibly exciting and energizing. The vision put forth in terms of religion and the human spirit as a major part of the strategic plan is really profound to me, but also sorely needed as we seek to make an intimate connection between intellectual life, personal life and public life in the southeastern United States and across the globe. When you add that to the extraordinary history of Candler as an institution that forms Christian leaders, it’s a chemistry that’s pretty hard to beat. For the University to place its emphasis on religion and the human spirit provides an opportunity for Candler to unleash its capacities in new, fresh ways that build on this great foundation.
What do you see as the role of seminaries in general and Candler in particular in the formation of Christian leaders?
Love:Seminaries are in the business of populating the church with the best clerical leadership possible. To situate that vocation and that passion for forming Christian leaders in a large research university offers extraordinary opportunities for drawing on the strength of all kinds of faculty and all kinds of places that provide incredible resources for a school of theology. It is a terrific combination, where we can draw from the University’s intellectual life and research to learn about different points of view and discover what trends are facing America, the Protestant world today and all humanity.
Some could consider your selection as dean an unusual choice. As a career academic and lifelong lay worker, you are coming into a position that has traditionally been occupied by a member of the ordained clergy. Why is the Candler deanship a good fit for someone with your background?
Love: I have spent enormous amounts of time meditating on my personal vocation and calling. I feel deeply called to be a layperson. I grew up in a parsonage and was surrounded by clergy all the time; I’m very happy it was so. But there is a profound, important role for the laity, and dedication and commitment to that has been my joy in life.
One of the things that helps once in a while is for somebody who is not a member of the group to look at things and say, “Hey, this is what it looks like from the other side.” That can be useful as a perspective. Moreover, I have, through the World Council of Churches, been the rare case of a layperson who rubbed shoulders on a regular basis with patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, metropolitans and elected clerical leaders. I got to be deeply immersed in the councils of those clerical leaders across the wide range of church denominations. So I bring the leadership of someone who is deeply committed to the church, deeply committed to the Christian faith, deeply committed to the United Methodist Church, and with decades of experience in the leadership of Christian institutions to the particular job of forming Christian leaders.
Without a doubt, making sure the churches are equipped with the best clergy they can have at this time in history is an incredible challenge. And I love challenges.
You have longstanding interest in and commitment to conflict transformation; how does that work differ from conflict resolution?
Love: For almost 40 years in theological studies and political science there has been an entity called peace studies. It came to acknowledge that conflict is an inherent part of life. Violence is not but conflict is. For example, we as parents may disagree with our teenage kids about what is best for them on occasion. That is a conflict. So we have to work through it. To talk about the difference between conflict and violence is important. Violence is unacceptable, but conflict is just part of life. It is unavoidable. The issue is how do you navigate those conflicts in a way that enhances everybody’s possibility to thrive. The academic literature for a long time talked about conflict resolution, which presumes there is a place we will get to where the conflict ends. Conflict transformation presumes we may live forever with a difference that’s so deeply held that we may never come to the same place on it, but we can live productively together anyway. We can thrive together. So we search for how to transform whatever conflict we have into a productive relationship rather than a destructive one.
One of the great joys in my life has been to build bridges across people with deeply held differences and to demonstrate to them that what they have in common is very powerful, very exciting, and a matter of joy that they can share.