Autocephalous''' (literally "self-headed") is the status of a church within the [[Orthodox Church]] whose [[primate|primatial]] bishop does not report to any higher-ranking bishop. When an [[ecumenical council]] or a high-ranking [[bishop]], such as a [[patriarch]] or other [[primate]], releases an ecclesiastical province from the authority of that bishop while the newly independent church remains in [[full communion]] with the hierarchy to which it then ceases to belong, the council or primate is granting '''autocephaly'''. Historically, however, autocephaly is not always obtained in such a manner .
== History ==
Autocephaly is a developed practical concept in the Church. That is, it is not part of the original organization of the Church but developed over time for practical reasons. Though many arguments are put forth regarding how autocephaly is properly obtained, the historical and canonical record shows a good deal of variation.
Some were simply recognized according to tradition (i.e., "small T" tradition), by which is largely meant that those sees were recognized as primatial in their regions by virtue of the tradition of honor accorded to them:
* The [[Church of Rome]]
* The [[Church of Constantinople]]
* The [[Church of Antioch]]
* The [[Church of Russia]] declared independence from the [[Church of Constantinople]] in 1448 and then in 1589 styled its primate as ''[[patriarch]]''.
* The [[Church of Greece]] declared autocephaly in 1833 but was not granted a ''tomos'' for it by [[Church of Constantinople|Constantinople]] until 1850.
* The [[Church of Romania]] declared its autocephaly in 1865 with strong protests from [[Church of Constantinople|Constantinople]], who eventually recognized the autocephaly in 1885.
* The [[Church of Albania]] claimed its autocephaly in 1922, which was recognized by [[Church of Constantinople|Constantinople]] in 1937.
* The [[Church of Georgia]]'s autocephaly was abolished by the Russian authorities in 1811 (after Georgia had been annexed by Tsarist Russia) and then later restored ''de facto'' in 1917. This restoration wasn't recognized by the [[Church of Russia]] until 1943 or by the [[Church of Constantinople]] until 1989.
* The [[Church of Serbia]] was ''de facto'' autocephalous in 1832, but not recognized by the [[Church of Constantinople]] until 1879. Some claim that Serbia's autocephaly goes back to 1219.
* The [[Church of Bulgaria]] was declared independent by the decree of the Sultan, creating a canonical mess condemned at a council in Jerusalem in 1872 (by way of condemning [[phyletism]]), eventually sorted out and reconciled by 1945.
* The autocephaly of the [[Church of Cyprus]] was recognized at the [[Third Ecumenical Council]] (431).
* The [[Church of Jerusalem]] was declared a [[patriarchate]] with primacy in its area (over the claims of the bishop of Caesarea) at the [[Quinisext Council]] (the council "in Trullo" 692), which established the canons of the [[Sixth Ecumenical Council]] .
* In 466, the [[Church of Antioch]] elevated the bishop of Mtskheta to the rank of Catholicos of Kartli, thus rendering the [[Church of Georgia]] autocephalous.
* The [[Orthodox Church in America]] received autocephaly from the [[Church of Russia]] in 1970 (though that action is still not recognized by many of the
older autocephalous churches).
===The Authority of Constantinople===
The notion that the [[Church of Constantinople]] has the sole authority to grant autocephaly is largely based on an interpretation of Canon 28 of the [[Fourth Ecumenical Council|Council of Chalcedon]] (451) stating that the Ecumenical Patriarch has authority in "barbarian lands." However, that is argued by many to refer only to certain areas on the borderlands of the ancient [[Roman Empire]] and having nothing whatsoever to do with the modern world some 1500 years later. Historically (see above), many of today's autocephalous churches were originally under the authority of Constantinople by virtue of geographical proximity or a tradition of Constantinopolitan missionary activity. So what may seem like a clear pattern of ecclesiastical order to some is argued by others to be merely coincidental and not [[ecclesiology|ecclesiological]].
There is, however, a good deal more historical evidence to suggest that Constantinople has a sort of missionary authority in the areas outside those territories which have been explicitly defined by pan-Orthodox synods to constitute autocephalous churches.[http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article8148.asp] This claim is disputed particularly by the [[Church of Russia]] and its daughter and dependency churches,[http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles5/PatAlexisCanon28.shtml]
especially as an expression of the idea that Moscow is the [[Third Rome]].
The truth is that, historically and canonically, there is no one way to attain autocephaly. Why? It is because there is no "theology of autocephaly" to be found in the [[Church Fathers|Fathers]] or the [[Holy Scripture]]. Indeed, the very idea of autocephaly probably would have seemed a little odd to the [[apostles]]. That doesn't mean that it is wrong, but autocephalous and [[autonomy|autonomous]] churches are not essential to the nature of the [[Church]]. That is, they are not inherently [[ecclesiology|ecclesiological]] matters. They are a practical, administrative, canonical development, and they continue to develop, though within the context of ecclesiology .
The one pattern which does seem to prevail is that autocephaly is an expression of the whole community of Orthodox churches and that the voice of that community is most often found in the leadership of the first among them, the Church of Constantinople. Where autocephaly is proclaimed without Constantinople's assent, it historically tends to find itself on difficult ground.
== See also ==
* [[List of autocephalous and autonomous Churches]]
* [[Byzantine response to OCA autocephaly]]
==External links== *[http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article8131.asp Unity and Autocephaly: Mutually Exclusive?], by Dr. Lewis J. Patsavos, a canonist at [[Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (Brookline, Massachusetts)]]*[http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article8148.asp The Origins and Authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church], by Demetrios J. Constantelos
* [http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles5/PatAlexisCanon28.shtml A Letter To The Ecumenical Patriarch Concerning The Situation Of The Diaspora], by Patr. [[Alexei II (Ridiger) of Moscow]]
* [http://www.oca.org/QAindex-autocephaly.asp?SID=3 Questions and Answers on Autocephaly], an ''apologia'' for the [[OCA]]'s autocephaly by Fr. [[Thomas Hopko]] (1971)
* [http://www.holy-trinity.org/modern/theodosius.html The Path to Autocephaly and Beyond: "Miles to go before we sleep"], a reflection on the [[OCA]]'s autocephaly by Metropolitan [[Theodosius (Lazor) of Washington]], its former primate (1995)
* [http://www.oca.org/DOCindex-autocephaly.asp?SID=12 Agreement on the Autocephaly for the Orthodox Church in America], Agreement made by [[Church of Russia|Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate]], and the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America