About Orthodox Churches
The Orthodox Church is one of the three main Christian groups (the others being Roman Catholic and Protestant). Around 200 million people follow the Orthodox tradition, and it’s made up of several Churches.
There exist two variants of the Orthodox Church:
Autocephalous: Having their own head or leader.
Autonomous: Being self-governing.
The Orthodox Churches are united in faith and a common approach to theology, tradition, and worship. They draw on elements of Greek, Middle-Eastern, Russian and Slav culture. Each Church has its own geographical title (as opposed to national title) that usually reflects its believers’ cultural traditions.
The word “Orthodox” takes its meaning from the Greek words orthos (‘right’) and doxa (‘belief’).
Hence the word Orthodox means “correct belief” or “right thinking“.
The Orthodox tradition developed from the Christianity of the Eastern Roman Empire and was shaped by the pressures, politics, and peoples of that geographical area.
Since the Eastern capital of the Roman Empire was Byzantium, this style of Christianity is sometimes called “Byzantine Christianity.”
The Orthodox Churches share with the other Christian Churches the belief that God revealed himself in Jesus Christ, and a belief in the incarnation of Christ, his crucifixion and resurrection.
But still, The Orthodox Church differs substantially from the other Churches in life and worship.
The Holy Spirit is seen as present in and as the guide to the Church working through the whole body of the Church, priests, and bishops.
Are Orthodox Churches the Same as Eastern Orthodox Churches?
Not all Orthodox Churches are “Eastern Orthodox.” The “Oriental Orthodox Churches” have theological differences from Eastern Orthodox and form a separate group, while a few Orthodox Churches are not “in communion” with the others.
Not all Churches in the Eastern tradition are Orthodox – Eastern Churches that are not included in the Orthodox group include the Eastern Catholic Churches.
Eastern Orthodox Churches of the World
The nominal head of the Eastern Orthodox Churches is the Patriarch of Constantinople. However, he is only first among equals and has no real authority over Churches other than his own.
There are 15 autocephalous Churches, meaning they are not subject to the authority of an external Patriarch or Archbishop.
1-9 = Led by Patriarchs
10-15 = Archbishops or Metropolitans.
Autocephalous Churches (in order of precedence):
1) Church of Constantinople (ancient)
2) Church of Alexandria (ancient)
3) Church of Antioch (ancient)
4) Church of Jerusalem (ancient)
5) Church of Russia (established in 1589)
6) Church of Serbia (1219)
7) Church of Romania (1925)
8) Church of Bulgaria (927)
9) Church of Georgia (466)
10) Church of Cyprus (434)
11) Church of Greece (1850)
12) Church of Poland (1924)
13) Church of Albania (1937)
14) Church of Czech and Slovak lands (1951)
15) The Orthodox Church in America (1970)
The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) is an Eastern Orthodox Christian church based in North America. The OCA is partly recognized as autocephalous and consists of more than 700 parishes, missions, communities, monasteries, and institutions in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
In 2011, it had an estimated 84,900 members in the United States.
The OCA has its origins in a mission established by eight Russian Orthodox monks in Alaska, then part of Russian America, in 1794. This grew into a full diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church after the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867.
By the late 19th century, the Russian Orthodox Church had grown in other areas of the United States due to immigrants’ arrival from areas of Eastern and Central Europe, many of them formerly of the Eastern Catholic Churches (“Greek Catholics”), and from the Middle East. Regardless of nationality or ethnic background, these immigrants were united under a single North American diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church.
- Church of Sinai
- Church of Finland
- Church of Estonia*
- Church of Japan*
- Church of China*
- Church of Ukraine*
- Archdiocese of Ohrid*
* Church whose autonomy isn’t universally recognized by the other Churches