Ecclesiastical Academic Program Options
St. Gregory Nazianzen Orthodox Institute for Eastern Christian Studies provides faith-based distance learning opportunities in higher education through accessible, flexible, and high-quality certificate, diploma, undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate programs in Eastern Christian Studies (ECS). In order to better support the Institute's vision, mission, goals, and objectives, the Institute undertook an extensive and comprehensive programmatic prioritization and reengineering process in 2017-2018, resulting in a dynamic restructuring of all ECS programs.
The ecclesiastical academic certificate and degree offerings [which came into effect on 1 January 2019] include (a) Undergraduate Certificates in ECS, (b) Undergraduate Diplomas in ECS, (c) Bachelor of Arts in ECS, (d) Certificate in Advanced [Eastern Christian] Studies for Presbyteral Ministry, (e) Master of Arts in [Eastern Christian] Spirituality and Ministry, and (f) Doctor of Ministry in [Eastern Christian] Spirituality and Ministry Mindset. The Institute also offers a number of specialized sabbatical, renewal, and certificate programs in ECS. Students enrolled in ECS programs prior to June 2018 are not affected by the programmatic changes.
Specialization tracks (majors) for ECS programs include (a) Eastern Orthodox Studies, (b) Eastern Catholic Studies, and (c) Student-initiated Specializations [which must be pre-approved by the Office of Academic Affairs]. Three key drivers — orthodoxia, phronema, and orthopraxia — motivate, impel, and sustain ECS programs and specializations, which focus on the creation of a learning and research environment that fosters growth in knowledge, faith, spiritual life and experience, and service to the Universal Church through a rigorous personal training/coaching regimen of human, spiritual/liturgical, intellectual, and pastoral formation.
In conjunction with the aforementioned ecclesiastical academic certificate/degree programs and specializations, the Institute offers integrated, [interdisciplinary], double majors, minors, and concentrations in Business Administration, Ecology, Education Sciences, Hellenic Studies, Information Technology and Security, Law, Leadership and Management, Slavic Studies, and student-initiated double majors, minors, and concentrations,[which like student-initiated specializations, must be pre-approved by the Office of Academic Affairs].
Interdisciplinary double majors, minors, and concentrations can supplement and strengthen the ECS programs and specialization tracks [in Eastern Orthodox Studies, Eastern Catholic Studies, and Student-initiated Specializations] and assist in the development of a full range of integrative skills in the areas of critical thinking and inquiry, creative synthesis, conceptual blending, dialogue, and multicultural/transcultural thinking. The intention is to foster a creative and transformative paradigm in which movement across the regulated perspectives and methodologies of disciplinary thought and learning can be achieved, and ultimately employed to span the divides between cultures, languages, philosophies, worldviews, and lifeworlds. The dynamic goal-orientation is the formation of servant-leaders who are equipped to ‘break down the middle wall of enmity’, (cf. Ephesians 2:14), and to move across seemingly insurmountable chasms in an effort to ‘bridge and build’ for the Kingdom of God.
Personalized Learning Options
St. Gregory Nazianzen Institute utilizes the Individualized Distance Learning Delivery Model, which combines personal choice, quality, convenience, and flexibility. This model includes: (a) Open/Rolling Enrollment; (b) Advanced Placement; (c) FlexStart Scheduling; (d) Independent Study, (i.e., Individualized Learning for Motivated Students); and (e) College Level Testing.
The model's Open/Rolling Enrollment policy allows a prospective student to submit his/her Admissions Application to the Institute at any time. The Institute then reviews the Admissions Application and notifies the applicant as to the admission decision within a 2-3 weeks after submission. Advanced Placement allows the student to transfer credits from other recognized institutions, [subject to review and approval by the Registrar’s Office], and/or to earn credits upon the satisfactory completion of Advanced Placement examinations/evaluations. FlexStart Scheduling allows the student to choose and register for non-sequential fast-track courses. Independent Study rewards the diligent student by allowing him/her to enroll in a course, complete the requirements, and move on to the next course at his/her own speed or pace. College Level Testing allows the student to translate life experience into academic credit.
The goal of this learner-centered model is to facilitate the student’s pursuit of academic excellence, and moreover, to foment the acquisition of critical thinking, emotional literacy, social intelligence, and other 'hard/soft' skills, (e.g., attention, communication skills, conflict resolution, flexibility, focus, independence, integrity, Christian leadership, motivation, multitasking, organizational skills, patience, self-direction, self-discipline, situational awareness, sound judgment, teamwork, time-management, and tolerance).
Ultimately, St. Gregory Nazianzen Institute’s innovative distance learning programs provide study tracks and spiritual growth pathways that fit the adult learner’s individual needs, schedule, and learning style, making it possible for the student to manage a family, job, career, and/or other responsibilities while studying.
On 17 March 2019, St. Gregory Nazianzen Institute and Avgustyn Voloshyn Carpathian University (UA) signed a Bilateral Agreement and Validation Partnership. The agreement serves as the framework for a comprehensive model of cooperation and integration between the signatory institutions [including the Uzhgorod Theological Academy]. In addition to establishing credit transfer and program/degree recognition, accreditation, and validation, the partnership promotes:
The Validation Partnership complements the accreditation of St. Gregory Nazianzen Institute’s ECS programs and specialization tracks by the Caribbean Evangelical Theological Association (see current Certificate of Membership) and the Institute’s membership in the Association of Universities of Latin America and the Caribbean for Integration.
Eastern Christianity comprises the Christian churches and traditions that emerged in the Middle East, Egypt, Asia Minor, the Far East, the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Northeastern Africa, and southern India over the course of several centuries of religious antiquity. The term 'Eastern Christianity' is used to describe all of the Christian traditions that did not develop in Western Europe, and does not describe any single 'Eastern' communion or religious tradition. The dominant Eastern Church today is known as the ‘Eastern Orthodox Church’, and the term ‘Orthodox’ is often used in loose fashion as ‘Eastern’. Notwithstanding, and more accurately, all Eastern Churches consider themselves part of an Orthodox and/or Catholic communion. Eastern Christians do not necessarily have shared religious practices but many Eastern Christian communities have shared cultural traditions.
The terms ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’ originated with divisions in the Church that mirrored the cultural and linguistic divides between the Hellenistic East and Latinate West and the political divide between the Western Roman and Eastern Roman Empires. Divisions among Eastern Christians often reflected the cultural, linguistic, political, and ongoing power struggles between the different ethnicities within the Eastern Roman Empire and the competition for political dominance between the Eastern Roman and Persian Empires.
In spite of these divisions, the Church was originally established in the East on the principle of unity, (i.e. catholicity and/or ecumenicity). This is in contrast to the models that then existed in paganism, Judaism, and other ancient belief-systems. For the earliest Christian communities, the concept of Catholic unity was manifested through a confessional understanding of Christianity based upon tradition, which was established on the teachings of Christ and the Apostles. Tradition was therefore the 'unifying doctrine', which mystically established a setting that fostered the creation in each individual believer of a personal relationship with God in Christ. Departures from that ‘unifying doctrine’, which disturbed the creation of this salvific relationship, were condemned.
As reputed ‘departures’ or ‘innovations’ surfaced, and/or differences in understanding, interpretation, and/or practice of tradition between the many ancient communities appeared, (which invariably paralleled the existing cultural, linguistic, and political divides), the Church as a united community attempted, (often inadequately), to address, confirm, and/or deny the same. Tradition was the cornerstone to how teachings and practices were deemed to be valid since tradition itself cultivated a relationship with the living God. Subsequently, the Ecumenical and other Councils of the Church attempted not only to define Christianity but also to determine who was a Christian.
Today there are four main branches or families of Eastern Christianity, each of which has a distinct understanding, interpretation, and/or practice of tradition:
(1) The Eastern Orthodox Church
(2) The Oriental Orthodox Churches
(3) The Nestorian Church of the East
(4) The Eastern Orthodox Churches in Union with Rome
Eastern Christians comprise approximately one fifth of the total number of Christians worldwide. Their experience is vital to a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the Christian message and Christianity. Their survival in the most hostile of environments may be the key to the survival of the Church in an increasingly secular world.
On 17 December 2017, St. Gregory Nazianzen Institute and Nikola Tesla Union University (RS) signed a Bilateral Agreement, which serves as the framework for a comprehensive model of cooperation between the signatory institutions. The new Bilateral Agreement serves as a mechanism for joint strategic management; it also regulates credit transfer, degree recognition and validation, joint degree development and research projects, student and staff exchanges, outreach activities, and the sharing of resources and technology.
In addition to the ecclesiastical academic programs listed above, a wide range of undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate secular degree options are now available through Nikola Tesla Union University (NTU), an institution of higher learning accredited by the Republic of Serbia (RS) Commission for Quality Evaluation, [Komisija za Vrednovanje Kvaliteta]. For information regarding 'St. Gregory Nazianzen Institute at NTU' program offerings, see Nikola Tesla Union University Programs of Study or A Guide through Accredited Institutions of Higher Education and Study Programs in Serbia, (pp. 59-61).
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The alumni of St. Gregory Nazianzen Institute hail from countries across the world and represent a rich multicultural/transcultural mosaic. Their arterial and/or heritage languages include Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Bulgarian, English, French, Greek, Hindi, Macedonian, Mam, Pashto, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Somali, Spanish, Urdu, and many other father/mother tongues and dialects. In addition to priests, deacons, monks, chanters, nuns, and other ecclesiastics, alumni include administrators, businesspersons, community advocates, composers, corporate leaders, directors, entrepreneurs, housewives, iconographers, insurance brokers, IT managers, lawyers, marine scientists, medical doctors, musicians, nurses, paralegals, police officers, professors, production managers, psychologists, teachers, therapists, and other professionals. Notwithstanding their diversity, the alumni are united in obedience to our Lord’s command to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), which they accomplish through apostolic diakonia and outreach, via an active commitment to knowledge, faith, spiritual life and experience, orthopraxis, and service. Over and above the specialization tracks in Eastern Christian Studies, many alumni acquired specific and comprehensive supplementary disciplinary knowledge and a full range of integrative skills through the Institute’s interdisciplinary/transdisciplinary double majors, minors, and concentrations. Ultimately, such knowledge and skills have enhanced both their Christian service and, in many cases, their professional lives. Their stories will inspire you to link, network, and join with this extraordinary group of servant-leaders as they actively engage in the advancement of the Kingdom of God.
See Inspirational Alumni
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