ORTHODOX THEOLOGY IN A SECULAR UNIVERSITY? by Andriy Chirovsky

WindleHouse

Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies Windle House, University of Toronto

The University of Toronto is one of the most complicated institutions I have ever encountered. Its complexity seems to grow daily, and the results are rife with possibilities. From very early on, it seems, this university was open to various forms of federation, collaboration, and association. Its college system was modeled on the storied colleges of Oxford and Cambridge. This allowed various ecclesiastically affiliated colleges (universities with their own charters and right to impart accredited degrees) eventually to be federated with the University of Toronto.

Let me provide what is a brief but probably vastly oversimplified description:

The three great examples of this are the University of Trinity College (High Church Anglican); Victoria University (United Church of Canada) with Emmanuel College, its theological faculty; and the University of St. Michael’s College (Roman Catholic, under the aegis of the Congregation of St. Basil).

In time, Knox College (Presbyterian), Wycliffe College (Evangelical Anglican), Regis College (Roman Catholic, under the aegis of the Society of Jesus), and St. Augustine’s Seminary (Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto), all joined with the original three to form the Toronto School of Theology (TST), a consortium of seven theological schools that is federated as a body within the University of Toronto.

This makes for a stimulating ecumenical environment on the very campus of one of the great research universities of the world, the University of Toronto. U of T usually ranks among the top 15 universities worldwide, especially in the Humanities. The cross-registration possibilities, the library resources available, and the everyday encounters with some very interesting people make this a wonderful place for theological study.

TST is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools of Canada and the United States, and bound by the quality control regulations and processes of the University of Toronto.

Within the last couple of years an even tighter collaboration has developed between TST and the University of Toronto. A new Graduate Centre for Theological Studies has been set up, with conjoint degrees between TST and the University of Toronto. This allows students to receive research degrees (MA and PhD) in Theological Studies with the prestigious pedigree of a rigorous research environment.

The average Eastern Christian will, in fact, feel a little overwhelmed by all of this. Is this really a good place to do advanced theological study in the Orthodox tradition? In the midst of a great secularist institution like the University of Toronto?

In the first place, an Orthodox and Eastern Christian studies program has existed for several years at the Faculty of Divinity of Trinity College. There one can pursue Basic Degree programs (MDiv, MTS) that are oriented more towards pastoral ministry.

Since July 1, 2017, TST has seen the Eastern Christian presence double, and one can only expect further growth. Joining the Faculty of Theology of the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto as an autonomous academic unit, the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies brings decades of experience and a proven track record in providing quality education at both Basic and Advanced Degree levels. The Sheptytsky Institute is trusted by Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches.

In addition to its core staff of Father Peter Galadza (Director), Father Andriy Chirovsky, and Dr. Brian Butcher, the Institute has employed such Orthodox figures as the following: Father John Jillions, who was a full-time, tenured associate professor of the Institute before he took the position of Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America; Verna (Sister Nonna) Harrison; Father Robert Hutcheon; Father Lambros Kamperidis; Father Pavlos Koumarianos; Father Ihor Kutash; Father Maxym Lysack; Father Andrew Morbey; Father Nazari Polataiko; Father Symeon Rodger; Dr. Richard Schneider; Dr. Lucian Turcescu; and many others over the last three decades.

Among the Institute’s alumni one can find many Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox graduates. Father Geoffrey Ready, today the co-director of the Orthodox School of Theology at Trinity College, was one of the first graduates of the Sheptytsky Institute’s program in Eastern Christian Studies. Father Ready and other professors and students of the Orthodox School of Theology have been more than welcoming to the Sheptytsky Institute. The two programs will complement each other, and the mutually respectful and warmly collaborative relationship can be expected to continue.

As well, the Institute’s Father Galadza has recently joined Orthodoxy in Dialogue editor Giacomo Sanfilippo’s doctoral committee.

I know for sure that I won’t be the last member of the Sheptytsky Institute to contribute to Orthodoxy in Dialogue. I’m sure both students and professors will find it an exciting forum for intellectual exchange. In today’s world, we Christians need to be talking with each other. Those of us who share in the living legacy that the Fathers and Mothers of the Church have left us in Holy Tradition are all the more duty-bound to work together, and that includes “speaking the truth in love” to each other. I think that’s what a forum like Orthodoxy in Dialogue has the potential to provide.

Yes, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky (1865-1944) was an Eastern Catholic holy man. That may give some Orthodox pause, but only those who have never met the actual people involved in the Institute. They love the Orthodox tradition, and preserve it with vibrancy.

One need only enter Windle House, the stunning 1897 Victorian mansion which is the new home of the Sheptytsky Institute. The first thing one sees is an icon of Christ washing the feet of His disciples. This reinforces the Institute’s motto: “Leading from Tradition, Serving for the Future.”

The first thing one might hear at certain times of day is the sound of Coptic Orthodox students praying in the little oratory on the second floor, or the laughter of members of the Orthodox Student Fellowship in the student lounge.

But the heart of the Institute is its chapel on the ground floor of Elmsley Hall, a short walk away, since the Institute is located at the very heart of campus. Here an old study hall has been transformed into a chapel with iconostasis and permanent furnishings for Orthodox worship. One might chance upon Ukrainian Greco-Catholic, Orthodox, or Coptic services.

The Sheptytsky Institute knows that theological studies must be grounded in solid worship. For the first two decades and more of its existence, the Institute would take students into various monasteries where, for a month, they would experience three hours of classes and six hours or more of liturgy per day. The idea was that for every minute one spends dissecting, analyzing, and objectifying God in an academic approach to studying Him, one needs to spend twice the time in worship, restoring the proper relationship with the Lord. That is why, when negotiating the relocation of the Sheptytsky Institute to St. Michael’s, the chapel was identified as more important than even office space.

The Sheptytsky Institute publishes Canada’s only peer-reviewed journal in the field, Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies. Many distinguished scholars—Orthodox, Catholic, and others—have published articles in this respected journal.

But what really is important is that—with the advent of the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies—Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, and pre-Chalcedonian Orthodox Christians will be able to more easily pursue advanced studies, studying with trusted scholars and receiving prestigious research degrees from the conjoint program of TST and the University of Toronto in Theological Studies at the MA and PhD levels.

Interested? Contact the Director at peter.galadza@utoronto.ca, or phone the Institute to arrange a visit at (416) 926-7133.

Rt. Rev. Mitred Protopresbyter Andriy Chirovsky holds an SThD from the University of Saint Mary of the Lake in Illinois. He founded the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies in Chicago in 1986 and served as its first director. He also serves as pastor of St. Michael Ukrainian Catholic Church in Tucson, Arizona. 

As Canada’s largest and most cosmopolitan city, Toronto is home to canonical Orthodox parishes worshipping in English, Greek, Slavonic, Ukrainian, Romanian, Arabic, and Albanian. There are also Coptic, Eritrean, and Armenian parish communities located within the city.