Eastern Orthodox Church organization
This article covers the organization of the Eastern Orthodox Churches rather than the doctrines, traditions, practices, or other aspects of Eastern Orthodoxy. Like the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church claims to be the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
The term Western Orthodoxy is sometimes used to denominate what is technically a vicariate within the Antiochian Orthodox and the Russian Orthodox Churches and thus a part of the Eastern Orthodox Church as that term is defined here. The term "Western Orthodox Church" is disfavored by members of that vicariate.
In the 5th century, Oriental Orthodoxy separated from Chalcedonian Christianity (and is therefore separate from both the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Church), well before the 11th century Great Schism. It should not be confused with Eastern Orthodoxy.
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The Orthodox Church is a communion comprising the fifteen separate autocephalous hierarchical churches that recognize each other as "canonical" Orthodox Christian churches. Each constituent church is self-governing; its highest-ranking bishop (a patriarch, a metropolitan or an archbishop) reports to no higher earthly authority. Each regional church is composed of constituent eparchies (or dioceses) ruled by bishops. Some autocephalous churches have given an eparchy or group of eparchies varying degrees of autonomy (self-government). Such autonomous churches maintain varying levels of dependence on their mother church, usually defined in a Tomos or other document of autonomy. In many cases, autonomous churches are almost completely self-governing, with the mother church retaining only the right to appoint the highest-ranking bishop (an archbishop or metropolitan) of the autonomous church.
Normal governance is enacted through a synod of bishops within each church. In case of issues that go beyond the scope of a single church, multiple self-governing churches send representatives to a wider synod, sometimes wide enough to be called an Orthodox "ecumenical council". Such councils are deemed to have authority superior to that of any autocephalous church or its ranking bishop.
The Orthodox Church is decentralised, having no central authority, earthly head or a single Bishop in a leadership role. Thus, the Orthodox Church uses a synodical system canonically, which is significantly different from the hierarchically organised Catholic Church that follows the doctrine of papal supremacy. References to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople as a leader are an erroneous interpretation of his title ("first among equals"). His title is of honor rather than authority and in fact the Ecumenical Patriarch has no real authority over Churches other than the Constantinopolitan. His unique role often sees the Ecumenical Patriarch referred to as the "spiritual leader" of the Orthodox Church in some sources, though this is not an official title of the patriarch nor is it usually used in scholarly sources on the patriarchate.
The autocephalous churches are in full communion with each other, so any priest of any of those churches may lawfully minister to any member of any of them, and no member of any is excluded from any form of worship in any of the others, including reception of the Eucharist.
In the early Middle Ages, the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church was ruled by five patriarchs: the bishops of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem; these were collectively referred to as the Pentarchy. Each patriarch had jurisdiction over bishops in a specified geographic region. This continued until 927, when the autonomous Bulgarian Archbishopric became the first newly promoted patriarchate to join the original five.
The patriarch of Rome was "first in place of honor" among the five patriarchs. Disagreement about the limits of his authority was one of the causes of the Great Schism, conventionally dated to the year 1054, which split the church into the Catholic Church in the West, headed by the Bishop of Rome, and the Orthodox Church, led by the four eastern patriarchs. After the schism this honorary primacy shifted to the Patriarch of Constantinople, who had previously been accorded the second-place rank at the First Council of Constantinople.
Autocephalous Orthodox churchesEdit
Four Ancient PatriarchatesEdit
- Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
- Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria
- Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch
- Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem
- Russian Orthodox Church (1448, recognized in 1589)
- Serbian Orthodox Church (1219)
- Romanian Orthodox Church (1872, recognized in 1885)
- Bulgarian Orthodox Church (870)
- Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church (486)
- Church of Cyprus (431, recognized in 478)
- Church of Greece (1833, recognized in 1850)
- Albanian Orthodox Church (1922, recognized in 1937)
- Polish Orthodox Church (1924)
- Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church (1951, 1988)
- Orthodox Church in America (1970)
The four ancient patriarchates are the most senior, followed by the five junior patriarchates. Autocephalous archbishoprics follow the patriarchates in seniority, with the Church of Cyprus being the only ancient one (AD 431). In the diptychs of the Russian Orthodox Church and some of its daughter churches (e.g., the Orthodox Church in America), the ranking of the five junior patriarchal churches is different. Following the Russian Church in rank is Georgian, followed by Serbian, Romanian, and then Bulgarian Church. The ranking of the archbishoprics is the same.
Autonomous Orthodox churchesEdit
- under the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
- Self-governing Monastic Community of Mount Athos
- Orthodox Church of Crete
- Finnish Orthodox Church
- Korean Orthodox Church
- Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church* (autonomy recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate but not by the Russian Orthodox Church)
- Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe*
- under the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch
- under the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem
- under the Russian Orthodox Church
- Belarusian Orthodox Church
- Latvian Orthodox Church
- Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate)* (autonomy recognized by the Russian Orthodox Church but not by the Ecumenical Patriarchate)
- Moldovan Orthodox Church
- Japanese Orthodox Church* (autonomy recognized by the Russian Orthodox Church but not by the Ecumenical Patriarchate)
- Chinese Orthodox Church* (virtually non-existent, autonomy recognized by the Russian Orthodox Church but not by the Ecumenical Patriarchate)
- Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia*
- under the Serbian Orthodox Church
- under the Romanian Orthodox Church
*Autonomy not universally recognised.
Orthodox churches with limited self-government but without autonomyEdit
- under the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
- Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy
- Exarchate of the Philippines
- American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese
- Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
- Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
Churches in resistanceEdit
These are churches that have separated from the mainstream communion over issues of Ecumenism and Calendar reform since the 1920s. Due to what these churches perceive as being errors of modernism and ecumenism in mainstream Orthodoxy, they refrain from concelebration of the Divine Liturgy with the mainstream Orthodox, while maintaining that they remain fully within the canonical boundaries of the Church: i.e., professing Orthodox belief, retaining legitimate apostolic succession, and existing in communities with historical continuity. With the exception of the Orthodox Church of Greece (Holy Synod in Resistance), they will commune the faithful from all the canonical jurisdictions and are recognized by and in communion with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.
Due in part to the re-establishment of official ties between the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate, the Orthodox Church of Greece (Holy Synod in Resistance) has broken ecclesial communion with ROCOR, but the converse has not happened. Where the Old Calendar Romanian and Bulgarian churches stand on the matter is as yet unclear.
The Churches in resistance are:
- Orthodox Church of Greece (Holy Synod in Resistance) (1924-2014; merged with Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece)
- Old Calendar Bulgarian Orthodox Church
- Old Calendar Romanian Orthodox Church
- Serbian True Orthodox Church
- Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church
- Autonomous Orthodox Metropolia of North and South America and the British Isles
Churches that have voluntarily "walled themselves off"Edit
These Churches do not practice Communion with any other Orthodox jurisdictions nor do they tend to recognize each other. Yet, like the "Churches in Resistance" above, they consider themselves to be within the canonical boundaries of the Church: i.e., professing Orthodox belief, retaining what they believe to be legitimate apostolic succession, and existing in communities with historical continuity. Nevertheless, their relationship with all other Orthodox Churches remains unclear, as Orthodox Churches normally recognize and are recognized by others.
- Old Believers
- Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece
- Russian True Orthodox Church
- Russian Orthodox Church in America
- Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church
- Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church
Churches that are unrecognizedEdit
The following Churches recognize all other mainstream Orthodox Churches, but are not recognized by any of them due to various disputes:
- Abkhazian Orthodox Church
- Bulgarian Orthodox Church – Alternative synod
- Croatian Orthodox Church (1942–1945)
- Orthodox Church in Italy
- Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric
- Montenegrin Orthodox Church
- Turkish Orthodox Church
- Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate
Churches that are both unrecognized and not fully Orthodox themselvesEdit
The following Churches use the term "Orthodox" in their name and carries belief or the traditions of Eastern Orthodox church, but blend beliefs and traditions from other denominations outside of Eastern Orthodoxy:
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- Serbian Orthodox Church official site: Помесне Православне Цркве (Autocephalous Orthodox churches)
- Orthodox Church in America official site: World Churches
- See Orthodox Church in America.
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- Territorial Jurisdiction According to Orthodox Canon Law. The Phenomenon of Ethnophyletism in Recent Years, a paper read at the International Congress of Canon Law, 2001, (Ecumenical Patriarchate website)
- List of Autocephalous and Autonomous Orthodox Churches, an OrthodoxWiki article
- World Orthodox Churches, at Orthodox Church in America website
- Religious Organisations - Orthodox Churches, at WorldStatesmen.org