St. Athanasius College
Online Certificate Program
Certificate in Orthodox Christian Theology


St. Athanasius College is an academic community of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America serving through Research, Writing, and Education. We offer online studies at an undergraduate level, operate a Prisoner Education Program, and carry out various programs of research and study to prepare materials presenting the Orthodox Christian faith to Americans, such as The Orthodox Study Bible.



 A Certificate in Orthodox Christian Theology with an emphasis in diaconal studies.



To provide an educational and/or vocational path for non-traditional students who are interested in learning more about the Orthodox faith and are interested in becoming a deacon in the Orthodox Christian Church. 

Program Summary

Self-paced and one class at a time, the graduate must complete all courses (or its equivalent) with a passing grade. The student may transfer up to 30 semester hours into the program (transcript review required). Students will start with module one and complete the required courses before progressing to the next module. All classes are taken online, but the word “online” does not adequately represent the engagement and hands-on experience expected to take place with each student.


Certificate Requirements

The certificate will be awarded upon the completion of the following requirements:

  • A minimum of 56 semester credit hours in courses numbered 100 - 399.

  • Minimum GPA requirements for course work in the major and a minimum GPA of 2.0 overall in work taken at SAAOT.

  • Transfer candidates must complete at least 30 credits at SAAOT. 

  • Completion of four practicums (projects).

  • While enrolled, 80% or higher attendance in a monthly colloquium.

  • Coursework and Practicum must be completed within four years.


Students are assigned a Mentor who guides and helps the student from the beginning of module one through graduation. All Mentors are required, at a minimum, to have some higher education in Orthodox Theology. Except for the diaconal studies, mentors are not part of the faculty.

A monthly colloquium takes place for all students of a faculty-led 60-minute video conference call to discuss and engage the course material, assignments, and anything else related to the Orthodox faith. A professor will host the video conference in our learning management system (LMS) and schedule it according to the availability of the professor. When possible, video conference calls are recorded and archived for students unable to participate.


Theological Studies

The curriculum requires the student to learn and engage with Orthodox theology, scripture, canons, dogma, liturgical theology, and spiritual life.



Our current structure allows for two optional electives which can be taken in modules two and four. Electives are not required.


Credit Class

Each module is made up of 14 credit hours: 12 are from courses plus two from the practicum. 

Module 1

  • PC 101: Practicum

  • LER 301: Leadership Development

  • SG 101: Salvation & Spiritual Growth

  • TH 101: The Incarnation

  • CHST 101: Pentecost to 313

Module 2

  • PC 102: Practicum

  • TH 102: The Use of the Holy Scriptures in the Orthodox Church

  • SG 102: Humility & Spiritual Guidance

  • LTS 101: Introduction to the Divine Liturgy

  • DCN 101: Diaconate Fundamentals

Module 3

  • PC 201: Practicum

  • SG 201: Grace & Mercy

  • LTS 201: The Sanctification of Time

  • CHST 102: The Seven Ecumenical Councils

  • DCN 102: Diaconate Methodology

Module 4

  • PC 202: Practicum

  • SG 305: Prayer Life

  • LTS 202: The Sanctification of Life - Sacraments

  • PHL 102: Introduction to Critical Thinking

  • TH 201: Foundations of Orthodox Christian Ethics


56 Credit Hours 


SG: Fr. Ernesto Obregon
CHST: Sdn. Lazaro Mancilla
TH: Fr. Gregory Rogers
LTS: Fr. John Finley
DCN: Dn. Adam Roberts
Practicum: Fr. Matthew Howell
 An important part of the school is regular engagement between the professor and students. This can be accomplished in many ways. Some of the examples will be shared here: a pre-recorded video by the professor with responses from the students, weekly asynchronous chat, lengthy responses to assignments (more than a smiley face), discussion forums (professor posts discussion question, students respond in time).
The goal is to have regular engagement between the professor and the student. The more engagement, the better. Some professors may decide to offer a live video/audio conference call. Due to the nature of our self-paced structure, lack of participation should not hurt the student’s grade. 
All engagement should take place within Moodle, our learning management system. Moodle allows for asynchronous chat forums and video conference calls. This means that a student and professor can have a live conversation through moodle as necessary.
Grading Policy
Faculty will assess the achievement of the student and assign grades according to a collegial GPA: 4 (A, excellent), 3 (B, above average), 2 (C, average), 1 (D, below average), 0 (F, requirements not met). Every effort will be given by the faculty to help students succeed, but laziness and lack of achievement cannot be ignored. Also, it is unfair to give two students the same grade who did not apply themselves equally. Therefore, grades will be at the discretion of the instructor.

Tuition, Fees, and Finances

Multiple studies have been recently done to show how the cost of higher education is accelerating beyond reason. Due to the nature of these costs, sometimes equaling the cost of a first home, and the amount of debt students are struggling with upon graduation, every effort has been made for our students to graduate WITHOUT student loans. This is an important principle for this program.

The tuition structure is per class based on hours per class as explained below.

2 credit hrs: $150

3 credit hrs: 225

The total estimated cost for tuition and fees for a student to complete all coursework at the Academy is $4,525. Class materials (textbooks and other required resources) are a maximum of $50 per class. If the student decides to purchase all course materials (other options exist), then the total estimated cost of tuition plus materials is about $5,525.

The non-refundable application fee is the same for all programs of the academy.

Refund Policy: Refunds for students who withdraw after the beginning of classes will be calculated as follows:
• 100% refund for withdrawal within ten days of registering for a class, which is day one of the class.
• No refund will be made after ten days.


At this time we are researching accreditation options but are not making that a requirement or a litmus test for success. Our ultimate goal is something similar to an Orthodox Trade School. Accreditation is not more important than the spirit of what we are trying to do and the cost to do it. If we determine that accreditation will hurt our goal or raise the cost of tuition, we will not pursue it.

SAAOT is not required to have accreditation due to California State Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009, California Education Code (CEC) Section 94874 (e) of the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE).



Students who have credits from another Orthodox educational tract may apply to have their credits transferred and count towards graduation.



While this may not be a comprehensive or even professional proposal (due to the lack of experience by the preparer), we believe this proposal includes the key ingredients and spirit of this project. All feedback is welcome so that we may be prepared and courageous in this endeavor for those who feel a calling to the diaconate.

Prepared by: Dn. Adam Lowell Roberts


Successful completion of this program prepares the student theologically for ordination to the diaconate and other ministry-related vocations. Graduation does not guarantee ordination or job placement. All decisions regarding ordination remain with the student's jurisdictional hierarchy. If a student is seeking ordination, we highly recommend confirming with the respective hierarchy before enrolling​. In addition, we recommend the following courses which aid in practice and theory. 

  • DCN 101: Diaconate Fundamentals

    • Students will learn the theory and theological applications of being a deacon. Course material includes specific applications in the area of deacons and clergy. Topics include obedience, servitude, and pastoral care. Also, the student will learn how to be in alignment with his priest or bishop (when he disagrees) and why it matters.

  • DCN 102: Diaconate Methodology

    • Students will learn the protocol for applied practices in the office of the deacon. This includes, but is not limited to, vesting (purpose and names), censing, the gospel, the eucharist, typika, baptism and sacristy care.

© St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodoxy Theology