(South Canaan, PA) It is with great joy that Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary announces that it will hold its 75th Annual Commencement Exercises on Saturday, May 27, 2017 with His Grace, Bishop Thomas, Bishop of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese serving as commencement speaker. The graduation exercises will be held in front of the All Saints Belltower Chapel on the grounds of St. Tikhon’s Monastery, beginning at 1:00 p.m.
Biography of His Grace, Bishop Thomas
Of Arab-American heritage, Thomas Joseph was born in Paterson, New Jersey in 1953. He attended John F. Kennedy High School in Paterson, graduating in 1970. He went on to college at William Paterson College, graduating in 1974. After college, he worked in the Department of Community Improvements in Paterson, then served as a teacher for the Paterson Board of Education. When the Antiochian Village camp opened in the late 1970s, he was recruited by Fr. John Namie to serve as one of the original camp counselors from 1979 to 1982.
In the fall of 1979, Thomas began part-time study at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, and was made a subdeacon by Metropolitan Philip (Saliba) of Blessed Memory in July of 1982. He continued his studies until the spring of 1983, when he was assigned to Virgin Mary Church in Yonkers, New York.
In 1984, Metropolitan Philip assigned him to St. George Church in Houston, Texas, where he served as Director of Christian Education and Youth Services. While in Texas, the Archdiocese also assigned him to oversee Christian Education and then later teen activities for the churches in the Southwest Region (now the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America). In July of 1988 Thomas was ordained to the diaconate by Archbishop Michael (Shaheen) of Toledo.
On August 28, 1994, Bishop Antoun (Khouri) ordained Dn. Thomas to the priesthood, and Fr. Thomas served as assistant pastor at his parish in Houston until August of 1996, when he was appointed pastor of St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church in Pinellas Park, Florida, near St. Petersburg.
Between 1996 and his consecration to the episcopacy, Fr. Thomas served in multiple capacities aside from his work as a pastor. He was an appointed member of the Archdiocese Youth Department Board; Spiritual Advisor to the Teen SOYO (Society of Orthodox Youth Organization) Southeastern Region; Chairperson of the Tampa Bay Orthodox Clergy Association; Director of Programs in Pastoral Bioethics for the International Academy of Bioethics and Philosophy of Medicine in the United States; Speaker at Braunels, Germany, and at City University of Hong Kong on Bioethics; author of published articles on Christian Bioethics; Speaker at Antiochian Village and third session camp priest for many years; and past President and Vice President of the Tampa Bay Council of Orthodox Churches. In July 2002, Fr. Thomas was granted a Master of Arts degree in Applied Orthodox Theology jointly from the Antiochian House of Studies and the St. John of Damascus School of Theology of the University of Balamand in Lebanon.
On February 15, 2004, Fr. Thomas was elevated to the rank of archimandrite by Bp. Antoun, and on December 5, 2004, he was consecrated to the episcopacy by Patriarch Ignatius IV (Hazim) of Antioch in Damascus, Syria.
Bishop Thomas was enthroned as Bishop of Oakland and the East at St. George Cathedral in Pittsburgh (Borough of Oakland), Pennsylvania, on May 6, 2005. In August of 2006, he was awarded a Doctorate in Education from California Coast University. His Grace also sits on the editorial board of the journal Christian Bioethics, which is published by Oxford University Press.
His Grace is also the author of several published articles, including "The Sanctification of Our Parish Life," "Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Its Importance in the Culture Wars," "Training Up a Child: Educational Options for Orthodox Christians," "An Orthodox University: Higher Education for Orthodox Christians" "Sanctified Schooling: Working out Salvation Within Education," "Instructing Your Spiritual Children for Salvation," and the "Orthodox Christian Witness" series. He also co-authored "The Emergence of Local Orthodox Christian Societies in America," and has given presentations for the St. Tikhon's 2016 Continuing Education program including "Instructing your Spiritual Children for Salvation Through Faith in Christ Jesus: The Role of the Pastor in the Lives of Young People" and "Introduction to Orthodox Homeschooling." Other articles include "Orthodox Christian Witness Through a Vibrant Parish Spiritual Life," "Holy Hierarch Nicholas: Patron of Children and Model for Parents," "Sacred Music in the Holy Orthodox Tradition," "Rebuilding the Walls of Jerusalem: The Spiritual Benefit of Frequent Communion," and "Seeking First the Kingdom of God."
In addition to his duties in the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic, Bishop Thomas also served as the locum tenens of the Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest from December 2010 to December 2011. Within the Archdiocese, His Grace assists Metropolitan Joseph in overseeing the Antiochian Village, the Christian Education Department, the Youth Department and the Antiochian House of Studies.
Since 2011, Bishop Thomas has also chaired the Committee for Youth of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America. In May 2014, His Grace was appointed Assistant to the President of the Balamand University in charge of Student Recruitment in North America. Since May 2015, His Grace has served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Seminary.