FB Live: How to Choose a Seminary (and succeed in Distance Learning)


There are several seminarians (not to mention theological programs; which is different).  Just in the United States, we have:

Resident Seminaries:

    • Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology – Brookline, Massachusetts; Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
  • OCA
    • Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary – South Canaan, Pennsylvania; The Orthodox Church in America
    • Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary – Crestwood, New York; Orthodox Church in America
    • Saint Herman’s Orthodox Theological Seminary – Kodiak, Alaska; Diocese of Alaska in The Orthodox Church in America
    • Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary – Jordanville, New York; Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
  • Serbian Orthodox Church
    • St. Sava’s Serbian Orthodox Seminary – Libertyville, Illinois
  • American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese
    • Christ the Saviour Carpatho-Russian Seminary – Johnstown, Pennsylvania; American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese
    • St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary – South Bound Brook, New Jersey
  • EP
    • The Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute – Berkeley, California

I’m sure I’m missing some programs, but the first eight are the ones I’m familiar with.

Distance Learning (some of the above also have Distance Learning programs; I attended St. Sophia’s for my priestly formation):

  • Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese: St. Stephen’s Course in Orthodox Theology (I completed this for my diaconal preparation)
  • ROCOR:  The Pastoral School of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America
  • GreatMartyr Euphemia Orthodox Theological Academy. Vicariate for Palestinian/ Jordanian Orthodox Christian Communities in the US (EP)
  • St. Gregory Nazianzen Orthodox Theological Institute – affiliated with Tesla University in Serbia.

So how do you choose?

It’s a bogus question.  You aren’t shopping.  You can make suggestions, but it’s really up to your bishop.  Don’t spring it on him (hey Vladika, I just graduated from XYZ – please ordain me!).  Get ecclesiology right, and do it from the beginning.

What about accreditation?

It’s nice for many reasons, but it isn’t required for ordination unless your bishop wants it to be.  Unaccredited degrees make using that degree for anything other than ordination difficult (but not impossible).  If you want an accredited degree, then be sure to share that information with your bishop.  BTW: you’ll learn a lot about yourself and your bishop’s management style during the process of discernment.  That’s a very useful part of the process.  Get used to it.  You don’t shop bishops any more than you shop seminaries!

Is Distance Learning really an option?

  • Some bishops use Distance Learning programs, some don’t.  Some use them as part of the discernment and training process just for potential deacons, some for priests, too (e.g. St. Sophia’s weekend priestly formation course).  If you and your bishop decide that Distance Learning is the right choice for you and your family (and there are many reasons why it might be!).

Make the best of it: it’s not a “dumbed down” version of resident seminary – unless you want it to be.

  • Make the most of the education.  Think of it as the Oxford system.  Read deeply, interact with your professors, and join forums with your classmates.  Be realistic – especially if you are working full-time, taking care of a family, and serving in a parish.  The residencies are invaluable.
  • Formation.  You have to pray.  You have to learn your strengths and weaknesses – and those of your family.
  • You are apprenticed to your parish priest.  Not just for spiritual formation, but for tutoring and OJT.  You don’t get that at full-time seminary.
  • Immerse yourself in the life of the parish.  Every service. Charitable ministries.  Parish board.  You don’t get that at full-time seminary.
  • Take advantage of opportunities to visit other parishes and the bishop.

There is no one size fits all solution for preparing a man for the priesthood.  Don’t look for the easiest way: make the most of the way that you, your priest, and your bishop make for you.  There are certain skill and knowledge sets that you need to have to begin serving as a priest, but it’s just as important that you become the kind of man that can serve as a priest (e.g. dependable and virtuous) – and that your bishop recognizes you as such.  Without any of those three, it just isn’t going to work.

And ordination is only the beginning of the journey!

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