What It Is
The St. Stephen’s Master of Arts program offers an accredited graduate degree in Applied Orthodox Theology. This course is designed for those interested in rigorous graduate education in theology.
Many St. Stephen’s graduates desire further doctoral education, but need master’s-level training. It is the perfect option for students who want a master’s degree, either for teaching, ministry, or personal enrichment.
The M.A. thesis program exists under the auspices the Balamand University,  Lebanon.
Balamand University grants successful students a Master of Arts in Applied Orthodox Theology in the Eastern Christian Tradition. The degree is administered in the U.S. by the Antiochian House of Studies and accredited by the Republic of Lebanon, under the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch.
Completion of the the House of Studies programs does not guarantee ordination. In Fall 1993, Metropolitan Philip of Blessed memory decreed that a St. Stephen Certificate or Master’s is necessary, but may not be sufficient, for major ordination in the Antiochian Archdiocese.
How It Works
Students who undertake this achievement work for four years, completing all the course work (identical to the St. Stephen's Certificate program), plus researching and writing a thesis.The St. Stephen’s Master of Arts in Applied Orthodox Theology consists of five components:
a) intensive reading
b) substantive writing
c) active directed ministry project
d) a yearly residency at the Antiochian village
e) a master’s thesis
The coursework covers six semesters (or “units”) of material over the course of three years.
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)
5. Master’s thesis research (x1)
6. Master’s thesis writing (x1)
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). Accepted students receive the syllabus, course goals and requirements, bibliography, and reading lists for all six units.
Examinations take the form of open-book 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). Master’s students are not permitted any failures on coursework; however, Certificate students are permitted up to two failures.
Students must complete three ministerial projects. 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.
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 an Master’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 $625 (half tuition) must be paid. (Full tuition is $1250.) The student then resumes study and the writing of the thesis.
The Typical Schedule – A Sample 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.
After three years of coursework, I began in earnest researching for a master’s thesis on a topic of applied theology. The master’s thesis is supervised by an House of Studies faculty member or approved expert on the field. Formal research began only upon completing the St. Stephen’s coursework.
I identified and contacted my “First Reader,” a faculty member who supervised my research and writing. The master’s thesis was read and approved by several faculty members before the final submission, and, once successful completion is reached, the Master of Arts degree was conferred.