St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary
Statement on Diversity and Unity
As an institution of the Orthodox Church in America, a jurisdiction of the worldwide Holy Orthodox Christian Church, St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary’s primary mission consists in the provision of the “necessary theological, liturgical, spiritual, and moral foundations” (Statement on the Identity and Mission of the Seminary) for the formation of Orthodox clergy. The Seminary’s mission is founded upon our Lord Jesus Christ’s affirmation of the Church as the “light of the world” and His accompanying exhortation “to let your light so shine” (Mathew 5:14, 16), thereby calling each member of the Body of Christ to become a living embodiment of the Gospel. Indeed, insofar as “there are many members, yet one body” (1 Corinthians 12:20), we recognize the Church’s need for the diversity of gifts and talents present in her membership, and affirm that those gifts are manifest in unique ways within each member of Christ’s Church whether male or female, young or old, ordained or lay. Accordingly, St. Tikhon’s also regards the training of individuals for lay-leadership and non-clerical ministry as indispensable, striving for the inclusion and education of men and women seeking to serve the Church in roles outside of ordained ministry positions or simply for personal enrichment.
In keeping with its commitments to biblical foundations and the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church, St. Tikhon’s operates in accordance with the fundamental theological precept disclosed by Genesis 1:26–27: every human being from the beginning of time bears the distinct image of God and is called to realize His likeness. In the superabundance of His divine love, God invited all of humanity to participate in eternal life and into an ineffable communion with the members of Holy Trinity. The forebears of the human race turned away from this divine-human relationship, choosing the cultivation of self-love and pride in place of unity and communion. The human rejection of God’s love brought evil into the world, leading to a rupture in divine-human relations and causing fragmentation and division in human nature. Rather than imitating the unity of the Triune God as He intended, human beings barbarically turned one against the other in a manner resembling wild beasts. Not content that humanity should remain in this degraded and divided state, the merciful God did not forget His creatures but sent His Son to redeem fallen humanity and renew our nature, Who, through the Cross and Resurrection, reopened the path to divine-human communion and the transformation of a divided human race into a unified people. It was to this end that Christ established the Church through the Holy Spirit: to regather fragmented humanity into a unified whole, distributing the fruits of His redemptive works through the medium of a common sacramental life. We affirm that this divine work is for all people, and we echo the Gospel’s call to unity in Christ regardless of sex, age, race, occupation, socioeconomic status, language, or nation. This understanding is undergirded by the words of St. Paul when he writes: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). The Church as the nexus of both this age and the age to come preserves a principle of “unity with distinctions,” recognizing and affirming the diverse backgrounds and experiences of humanity yet striving for the transformation and integration of all “members” into a univocal “Body of Christ.” This call to “transformation” thus functions on both particular and universal levels: each individual in the Church contributes to the achievement of unity through the personal realization of the divine likeness, becoming a microcosmic instance of Christian love and voluntarily sharing in the macrocosmic Ecclesia.
We believe in the perennial import of this Christian vision for the transfiguration of the world through the spiritual renewal of each person, and this belief underlies and governs all the practical realities associated with St. Tikhon’s mission and our institutional understanding of unity and diversity. In service to this larger vision, the Seminary also seeks to contribute to diversity and inclusion within the larger socio-cultural framework of North America through the education of underrepresented and marginalized religious demographics. Orthodox Christians constitute a religious minority in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, with few institutions of their own and limited media in which to express their distinctive voice or cultivate the unique aspects of their tradition. It can also be noted that Orthodox Christianity encapsulates within its communities many indigenous populations within North and South America. As an accredited institution in the continental United States, St. Tikhon’s is uniquely positioned to contribute to the preservation and cultivation of traditions beloved by the ethnically diverse members of the worldwide Orthodox Church. In addition to the students of diverse ethnic backgrounds from various Orthodox jurisdictions in North America, the Seminary also hosts and educates students from overseas, providing opportunities for clergy candidates from underprivileged circumstances or countries afflicted by political and social upheaval. Such students have come to us from Africa, the Middle East, Eastern and Western Europe, India, and Australia. St. Tikhon’s also has accepted and continues to accept and help form students from confessions and traditions outside its own, who, when taken together, represent a sizable portion of our student body.