The Orthodox Scholar in the Academy: Does it Matter? Should it Matter?

The Office of Vocation and Ministry and the Orthodox Theological Society in America are cosponsoring a conference on "The Orthodox Scholar in the Academy: Does it Matter? Should it Matter?" in Chicago, June 12-13, 2008. Orthodox faculty from academic institutions across the nation are encouraged to submit proposals through OTSA, and are welcome to contact Ann Bezzerides or Tony Vrame for more information. A full description of the project can be downloaded from this website.  

To our knowledge, there has been no sustained reflection on the presence of Orthodox Christians in higher education in the United States and on the question of "Orthodox particularity" in this milieu. There may be a number of reasons, but two come to mind. First, since most Orthodox have not faced outright discrimination, there is a general acceptance of Orthodox Christians in the academy - we are different, but not that different. Second, the Orthodox churches in America have had a relatively short history of establishing institutions of undergraduate higher education, being content with theological education for clerical preparation. Hellenic College, founded in 1968, is the only undergraduate institution still extant. There have been other attempts as well: the short-lived Rose Hill College (Aiken, SC) and a relationship between St. Vladimir's Seminary and Iona College.

Questions of Interest 

The Orthodox Theological Society in America wishes to explore the potential impact, if any, of the Orthodox Christian scholar in the academy. Thus far, at least six lines of questioning frame this investigation. These, we believe, can begin and sustain a conversation on the vocation of the Orthodox Christian scholar:

  1. How has the topic of Orthodox Christian faith and the values of higher education been discussed in Orthodox Christian institutions of higher learning? How did this conversation affect the institutional history and outcome, if at all?
  2. Does being an Orthodox Christian matter in the academy? Does the faith commitment of an Orthodox Christian scholar have any bearing in her/his scholarly work? Does it matter to the institution in which she/he works?
  3. How do "theological opinions" as well as dogmatic teachings of the Orthodox Church have an impact on her/his scholarly activity?
  4. Does being an Orthodox Christian contribute to the "way of knowing" of her/his scholarly work, especially outside of religion and theology? For example, Orthodox Christianity is comfortable with mystery and paradox. The faith is seen as a way of life, not merely a set of intellectual propositions for affirmation, thereby integrating theory and practice. It describes itself as being holistic. Have these characteristics influenced the Orthodox scholar in her/his work?
  5. Are Orthodox Christian scholars in religion departments "ghettoized" in any way, i.e., are they hired to teach only ancient, medieval, or Eastern Church topics? What is or what could be the contribution of Orthodox theological scholarship to other theological conversations?
  6. How does the Orthodox Christian scholar relate to students, especially Orthodox? Does the faith bond and commitment create a unique pattern of relationship and mentoring?

 Summary

WHAT:  A conference titled "The Orthodox Scholar in the Academy: Does it Matter? Should it Matter?"

WHERE &  WHEN:  Chicago, June 12-13, 2008.

COSPONSORED BY:  The Orthodox Theological Society in America and the Office of Vocation & Ministry.

WHO:  Orthodox faculty from academic institutions across the nation are encouraged to submit proposals through OTSA, and are welcome to contact Ann Bezzerides, OVM Director, or Tony Vrame, OTSA President, to discuss proposal ideas. Graduate students interested in attending the conference should contact Ann Bezzerides.

KEYNOTE:  Andrea Sterk, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History at the University of Flordia will speak on "Faith and Learning in Higher Education: Historical Reflections for Orthodox Scholars Today."  

Sterk's recent books include Renouncing the World Yet Leading the Church. The Monk-Bishop in Late Antiquity (Harvard University Press, 2004), and Religion, Scholarship, and Higher Education. Perspectives, Models, & Future Prospects (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2002).  Read more.

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