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The 2017 May PhD Residency - A Resounding Success!

By Dr. Christopher Veniamin, Assistant Director
The Antiochian Orthodox Institute (TAOI)

Something special is happening in the Antiochian Archdiocese.

The 2017 May Residency of the Antiochian House of Studies PhD program proved to be a resounding success. It was hard to see how it could be otherwise, given the world-class calibre of its faculty, including Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos and Renos K. Papadopoulos. But even so, the second Intensive (Residency) of the first-ever AHOS PhD cohort managed to surpass all expectations.

No stranger to the Antiochian Archdiocese, Metropolitan Hierotheos—speaker at the Archdiocese's 2016 Clergy Symposium—immediately recognized the importance of Metropolitan Joseph's invitation to contribute to the spiritual and intellectual life of the Church in North America.

L to R: Dr. Anastasios Philippidis, Dr. Christopher Veniamin, Met. Hierotheos, and Archimandrite Kallinikos GeorgatosL to R: Dr. Anastasios Philippidis, Dr. Christopher Veniamin, Met. Hierotheos, and Archimandrite Kallinikos GeorgatosEntitled "Philosophy and Patristic Theology", the purpose of His Eminence's course was to demonstrate why Orthodox Theology is based on the experience of the living, risen Christ, and not on philosophical speculation, no matter how lofty and sophisticated.

By means of an analytical presentation of Plato, Aristotle and the Neoplatonists, and a demonstration of their influence on the chief heresiarchs of the first four centuries - including Paul of Samosata, Arius, and Eunomius - Metropolitan Hierotheos skillfully revealed the therapeutic "method" and hesychast tradition of the Patriarchs and Prophets, St. Paul, John the Divine, St. Ignatius of Antioch, the Cappadocian Fathers (Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and Gregory of Nyssa), St. Maximos the Confessor, St. John Damascene, St. Symeon the New Theologian and St. Gregory Palamas; and with specific reference to such great theologians of our day as Elder Sophrony of Essex and Fr. John Romanides.

Presented in a humble and prayerful manner, this course was comprised of a daily three-and-a-half-hour block of presentations by the Metropolitan in the morning, two-and-a-half hours of student presentations in the afternoon, and tutorials and consultation for individual PhD students in the evenings, sandwiched by the rich services of Matins and Vespers.

The impact of this wondrous theological "symposium" was at once deeply inspiring and, it would not be an exaggeration to say, "life-changing."

Divine Liturgy, L to R: Bishop Thomas, Bishop John, Met. Hierotheos, Met. JosephDivine Liturgy, L to R: Bishop Thomas, Bishop John, Met. Hierotheos, Met. JosephIt was hard to see how the course offered by Professor Renos Papadopoulos — "The Place of Psychology in Christian Ministry" — could match the sublimeness of His Eminence's. And yet, Dr. Renos's presentations proved to be a masterful analysis and comparison of the respective roles of psychology and the therapeutic character of Orthodox Patristic theology; nowhere else in the world is a course of this kind offered. With reference to his own prodigious experiences as psychoanalyst, family therapist, and consultant to the United Nations on Trauma, Asylum and Refugees, Dr. Renos, with remarkable discretion and integrity, instructed the PhD class in the contribution of psychotherapy to human beings suffering affliction both outside and within the context of the life of the Church. The clarity and incisiveness of his presentations were simply astounding.

Dr. Renos PapadopoulosDr. Renos PapadopoulosThe place of philosophy in Orthodox theology and the place of psychology in Christian ministry: these are two of the burning questions of our times. And both of our guest professors, Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos and Professor Renos Papadopoulos, who have graciously agreed to be regular members of our AHOS PhD faculty, complemented each other so well that it could not have been a more perfect fit.

Having concluded the first year of the PhD Program on such a high note, one can only wonder in gratitude at what is yet to come.

Established with the blessing and full support of His Eminence, Metropolitan Joseph, and with the magisterial guidance of the Very Rev. Dr. Joseph Allen, Director of AHOS, the PhD Program in Orthodox Studies is ably led and inspired by the vision of the Very Rev. Dr. Michel Najim, Director of the Antiochian Orthodox Institute (TAOI) and the AHOS PhD program.

Directing the program on site was Dr. Christopher Veniamin, Professor of Patristic Theology and Dogmatics in the PhD program, and Assistant Director of TAOI.

Members of the PhD class in rapt concentration.Members of the PhD class in rapt concentration.Special thanks are due to His Grace Bishop Thomas, the episcopal overseer of Antiochian Village, and Bishop of Oakland, Charleston, and the Mid-Atlantic, whose care for our guest professors and PhD students, as also his active interest in the program, was a great encouragement to us all.

To Amy Stiffler, Executive Director of Antiochian Village, and Allison Taylor (Operations Coordinator), we express our heartfelt gratitude. Together with all their staff and colleagues, their diligent work ensured that the 2017 May PhD Residency ran smoothly and pleasantly.

For further information about the AHOS PhD Program, go to The Antiochian Orthodox Institute website or contact us at

Read the report on the popular Greek Orthodox website, Romfea (English translation available).
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