St. Athanasius College is a division of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology. Established in 1976, it joined the Antiochian Archdiocese in 1987. We have students from all backgrounds and jurisdictions, offer an online degree program, and facilitate various enrichment courses for lifelong learning. The Orthodox Study Bible is an outstanding example of the fruit of our literature programs.

St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All donations are tax-deductible. FEIN: 77-0187320

Who We Are & What We Do

St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology was founded as an arm of the Evangelical Orthodox Church and entered canonical Orthodoxy when that body was brought into the Antiochian Archdiocese. We offer an Online Study Program and carry out various programs of research and study to prepare materials presenting the Orthodox Christian faith to Americans. The Orthodox Study Bible is an outstanding example of the fruit of our literature programs. Also, whenever appropriate, we publish audio and video tapes on various topics.

Mission Statement: Why does SAC exist?
Saint Athanasius College, founded in 1976, endeavors to enrich its students’ understanding of the Orthodox Catholic Church’s teachings and traditions. We strive to educate those seeking to grow in their knowledge of ancient Christianity, inspiring them to incarnate their faith through service to their local community. 

Vision Statement
Saint Athanasius College will be a leading institution of Orthodox Christian education, cultivating innovation to provide an efficient and effective educational experience that transfigures the whole person in mind, body, and spirit while equipping our students to become transformative leaders in their communities.

Statement of Faith

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of Light; true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man. And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried. And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; whose Kingdom shall have no end.

And [we believe] in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets. In one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.


We practice a theology of education at St. Athanasius in three parts. An Orthodox framework creates the boundary of our education but also allows for profitable discussion.

First, we acknowledge the relationship of the nous and God. Jesus Christ opens the nous for understanding according to Luke 24:45. Some translations refer to nous as the heart, while others call it the mind. The American Orthodox Church has not pronounced an exact word for nous in English. Therefore, we must look elsewhere for more understanding. St. Nikolai says we activate the nous when our mind, heart, and will are harmonious. If the mind is descending into the heart, this requires an act of the will. How do we pray with the will? Who’s will are we talking about? Our own will or God’s will? Who will judge our hearts? Whose will imparts wisdom? We desire to bring the heart and mind to unity through the force of our will; we conform our human will to the divine will of God so that we can have this unity in our souls. When our mind, heart, and will act in harmony, understanding is opened to us (Luke 24:45). This helps us understand the wisdom of the Man Born Blind in John 9. How did this blind man have greater wisdom than the Pharisees? The most plausible explanation is that Jesus opened the nous of the blind man for understanding. His understanding was so great he was able to lecture the Pharisees.

Second, we desire to stand with the apostles in the reception of the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. We believe that the wisdom of God provides the ultimate understanding of life. This ultimate understanding is attained through pursuing holiness first and then knowledge. We offer a theology formation generally stated as “wonder into wisdom, knowledge into mastery.”

Third, our teaching approach is broad, but our content is not. This quote from The V. Rev. Richard Ballew, of blessed memory, explains our approach to curricula.​ “If the mainstream of Orthodox Theology were likened to a river, I would want to swim out to the middle of that river and go downstream from there. This is how I interpret St. Vincent of Lerins’ hermeneutic of believing and teaching that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all – universality, antiquity, and consensus.”​

Timeline of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology

St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology opened its doors to a resident program of studies. These studies centered around the study of Latin and Greek, research into the Patristic Literature, the translation of writings not found in English, and the study of Church History and Worship. Professors included Jack N. Sparks, Dean, Jon E. Braun, and J. Richard Ballew, who taught from their research conducted over the previous 3 years. Fr. Jack taught early Church Worship, Fr. Jon Church History, and Fr. Richard Theology with a focus on Nicene Christology.

Gordon Walker moved to Santa Barbara and joined the faculty to teach biblical studies. For several years, Weekend Institutes of Biblical Studies (WIBT) were offered through St. Athanasius Academy to the Churches of the Evangelical Orthodox Church, which had been formed in 1979. Other EOC bishops also taught WIBT classes during this time. These institutes continued until after the reception of the EOC into the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.

Mid 1980s
A one-year Post-High School program was developed to prepare high school graduates for college studies. The program was designed to strengthen their faith through doctrinal teaching, Church History, and Liturgical Studies.

St. Athanasius was received into the Antiochian Archdiocese in February 1987. Enrolment increased, and a facility was leased in the foothills of Santa Barbara to provide housing for faculty and students with room and board, as well as sufficient classrooms and office space.

At the same time, an ambitious project was launched to produce an Orthodox Study Bible of the New Testament. Fr. Peter Gillquist, who at the time was an editor for Thomas Nelson Publishers, served as the lead editor of the project.

Due to financial difficulties brought on primarily by the US economic recession following the Gulf War in Kuwait, which particularly hit Southern California, the Academy closed its doors to the residency program of studies but retained its correspondence courses.

The headquarters of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology was transferred to Sacramento when Fr. Richard Ballew and Fr. Jack Sparks relocated there. The correspondence courses continued, and many non-Orthodox students became Orthodox through their studies.

Correspondence Courses began to be used to provide Orthodox Christian Education to prisoners. This program is facilitated by the OCPM.

The Academy took up an ambitious project to produce an Orthodox Study Bible of the Old Testament, including a new translation of the Old Testament into English using the Septuagint. This project was completed, and the entire Orthodox Study Bible was published in 2008.

2019: August
The Academy’s correspondence courses moved online and were relaunched online with the new Associate of Arts in General Studies.

2021: August
The Academy (adult education) was rebranded as St. Athanasius College. The college began offering CPE and pastoral care courses for Orthodox clergy. 

2022: February
The Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Church Ministry and the Bachelor of Arts in Leadership and Management launched as online programs to help busy adults finish college.

2023: March

The winged lion was adopted as the college logo.  The winged lion is the official symbol of the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria. St. Athanasius was both born in Alexandria and elected Patriarch in 326 AD. This symbol is also known as the Lion of St. Mark because St. Mark the Evangelist is considered the founder of the Alexandrian Patriarchate.

2024: August
As a third option after high school, the Third Way program offers an opportunity to pursue a degree, study abroad, learn leadership, and gain practical skills all at an Orthodox hybrid campus.