12 February 2013 • On–Campus • Deborah Belonick
St. Vladimir's Seminary (SVOTS) and the Faculty of Orthodox Theology at the University of Belgrade  have made a formal agreement to work together with the aim of establishing a Serbian House of Studies on the campus of St. Vladimir's Seminary. The House of Studies has several goals, including the promotion of sustained dialogue and educational exchanges between Orthodox Christians in America and Serbia.
The Serbian House of Studies is one of many endeavors outlined in the Seminary's newly crafted "SVS Strategic Plan 2020," and the first to be implemented. The Strategic Plan—which sets forth the Board's vision for St. Vladimir's Seminary for the next decade—actually calls for several such foreign houses of study, together comprising "The International Center of Orthodox Christian Studies," eventually to be located in the historic stone "Germack Building" on campus.
The agreement between SVOTS and the University of Belgrade had been in negotiation for some time, including review and reception by the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church. An opportunity to formally sign the agreement came when His Grace, The Right Rev. Maxim, bishop of the Western American Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America, and a member of the Board of St Vladimir's, together with Protopresbyter Stauvrophor Dr. Predrag Puzović, dean of the Faculty of Orthodox Theology, University of Belgrade, and their colleague Dr. Bogdan Lubardić, visited St Vladimir's for the Feast of the Three Hierarchs.
"There are many advantages to our envisioned 'International Center,' said The Very Rev. Dr. John Behr. "Firstly, these houses of study will 'formalize' our existing relationships with other Orthodox schools around the world; ultimately, St. Vladimir's will be the only place on the planet where Orthodox Christian faculty and students are living, working, and studying while fostering international dialogue.
"Secondly, student exchanges between two countries will enrich the whole student body," he continued. "In this case, American Serbian seminarians will get to experience church life in the country of their home jurisdiction, while foreign students will train here and get to understand the American Orthodox scene. This will help our American students better understand and incorporate their heritage, including Serbian history and liturgical practices, into their ministry.
"Thirdly, our seminary campus will be the locus for further theological research by a faculty member from Belgrade University, who will remain in residence for one year and share his particular knowledge with our own student body, while overseeing Serbian exchange students.
"And finally," Fr. John concluded, "the Serbian House of Studies will act as a liaison and center for alumni of Serbian descent from theological schools around the world. We plan to run alumni events throughout the year from this new center, and we plan to publish a newsletter reporting on those events.
The Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield, seminary Chancellor/CEO, also enthusiastically endorsed the agreement, saying, "This is only the first of many proposed Houses within the International Center for Orthodox Christian Studies. It should be noted that the long-term plan is to include various Oriental Orthodox Houses as well, and their inclusion will build upon our Seminary's history as a place of serious exchange between Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christians."