Born in the former British colony of Natal in South Africa where he grew up under apartheid. He holds dual citizenship of the UK and New Zealand.
Gerald earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Rhodes University and a Doctor of Theology degree from the University of Durban. After lecturing at the University of Durban-Westville, he became Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the University of South Africa, in Pretoria, in 1988. He is widely published as part of a distinguished academic career, examining such topics as the relationship between the church and state, the complex interplay between theology and human sciences, as well as seeking to understand how religion can both move with the times yet still stay grounded in tradition and history.
Pillay was the Vice Chancellor of Liverpool Hope University in the United Kingdom from 2003 - December 2022, and responsible for the organization, direction and management of the University and staff.
‘The task before us now is how to rebuild our societies and communities with patience and resourcefulness. As we saw at the end of the Second World War, it is not going to be done quickly or easily.’
‘What would the pioneers of this movement say if they were here today? I suspect that they would urge us to do something; to be the vanguard of changemakers; to help with the healing of history and continue the work of reconciliation; to be the honest brokers in addressing the predicament in which we find ourselves.’