Skip to Navigation

St. Stephen's Certificate Program

The most popular program of the House of Studies offers a certificate in Orthodox Theology. This intensive three-year course is for laymen or clergy interested in a rigorous introduction to Orthodox faith and practice.

Anyone with a high school diploma may apply. Some students are in college, some already have received their Bachelor's degree. Many St. Stephen’s Certificate students already have advanced degrees (M.A, M.D., Ph.D.) but want a master-level education without the master’s thesis itself.

What It Is

This three year directed reading course immerses students in Eastern Orthodox theology, history, and spirituality through intensive reading, writing, directed ministry, and local residency classes.

These formal, graduate level courses challenge the students and enable them to acquire a solid theological base, along with the ability to apply that knowledge.

While completion of the House of Studies programs does not guarantee ordination, the Certificate Program is the ideal option for those seeking enrichment, deeper knowledge, and entrance into a growing community of alumni.

The St. Stephen’s course is self-directed. This means the student is in control of his or her time commitment. Most students are full-time professionals, teachers, students, or parents, and they are able to gain graduate-level formal in Orthodox Theology during their evenings, weekends, and blocks of free time.

Furthermore, St. Stephen’s is ideal for music directors, youth ministers, and artists.

While all St. Stephen’s students study the same core courses in Theology, each may choose to supplement their theological reading with one of three “tracks:”  Iconology, Musicology, or Youth Ministry. These tracks provide specific preparation for the study or practice of iconography, for service as a choir director or chanter, or for ministry in camps, youth groups, and classrooms.

How It Works

The St. Stephen’s Certificate of Orthodox Theology consists of four components:

a) intensive reading,

b) substantive writing,

c) active directed ministry project,

d) yearly residency.

Each year includes all four components, to varying degrees. Accepted students receive the syllabus, course goals and requirements, bibliography, and reading lists for all six units.

In detail, these components consist of :

1. Guided Reading Unit (x6 total—1 per semester)
2. Written Examinations (x6 total—1 per semester)
3. Directed Project (x3 total—1 per year)
4. Residency (x3 total—1 per year)

     1.  Guided Reading: The coursework covers six semesters (or “units”) of material over the course of three years. Each unit of coursework covers 2-3 sections on topics (such as the Fundamentals of Orthodoxy, Liturgical Theology, Pastoral Theology, Church History, Patristics, and Canon Law).

     2.  Written Examinations:  Examinations take the form of research papers. Students receive a grade of P or F (pass or fail), though the grading scheme includes P+(pass with distinction) and P- (pass, below average).

These papers are time intensive and demanding, as they demonstrate the student’s engagement with the course material and ability to synthesize this knowledge in his own words.

Certificate students may continue through up to two failures.

     3.  Directed Project:  Students must complete three ministerial projects, one per year. 

These are co-ordinated by the local pastor or director and Fr. George Kevorkian, aimed at practical leadership within a parish church school, youth group, choir, adult education, senior citizens, retreats, etc.

    4.  Residency:   For one week each summer, students travel to the Antiochian Village near Ligonier, PA, to attend the Antiochian House of Studies Residency program.

This Residency consists of a fast-paced series of lectures, workshops, and discussions, and must be completed to fulfill the requirements of the certificate.

After a successful three years of course work, the student receives a St. Stephen’s Certificate of Theology from the House of Studies.


Extensions on written examinations may be requested, if needed, from the appropriate mentor. Contact the mentor (by email), not the office staff.

Students are permitted a leave of absence, for a limited amount of time, if a break from study should be required. If a St. Stephen’s student takes desires a leave of absence, in order to be kept on the student roster, a leave of absence fee of $50 per year is required.

Upon return, a tuition of $500 must be paid. The student then resumes study.

The Typical Year – A Sample Schedule from a Student’s Perspective

In the fall, after I received my syllabus, I read through the course information, and bought my books.

I reviewed my readings and scheduled them out for four months, from September through January. I slowly but surely read the 1,500-2,000 pages of material on relevant topics, taking notes and answering “focus questions.”

By the fifth month, the tests arrived in the mail. I wrote these open-book Written Examinations on specific questions covering the material in the readings, and proved my comprehension and mastery of the material. I mailed these exams to my professors, who graded them with either a pass, fail, or pass + or pass -.

Then I paid my tuition, ordered my books for spring, and made another reading schedule. By spring, I began reading again. I spent those four months reading 1,000-1,500 pages on new topics.

There was less reading in the spring to make room for my project. Co-ordinating with my pastor and Fr. George, I designed and planned a project to serve my parish and community.

Once approved by Fr. George, I implemented the project, and then submitted it to Fr. George for grading.

At the end of each summer, I travelled to the Antiochian Village near Ligonier, Pennsylvania for an intensive one-week, on-site residency program.

This residency was the highlight of the year for me. It drew together St. Stephen’s students from all over the globe for a fast-paced schedule of lectures, discussions, and presentations on topics overlapping or related to those in the Guided Reading (however, no tests were administered).

When I returned, I made sure I had all my books, checked my syllabus, and started reading again.