The term Oriental Orthodox refers to the churches of Eastern Christian traditions that keep the faith of only the first three Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church - the councils of Nicea I, Constantinople I and Ephesus. The Oriental Orthodox churches rejected the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Chalcedon.
Thus, despite potentially confusing nomenclature, Oriental Orthodox churches are distinct from the churches that collectively refer to themselves as Eastern Orthodoxy.
The Oriental Orthodox churches came to a parting of the ways with the remainder of Christianity in the 5th century. The separation resulted in part from the Oriental Orthodox churches' refusal to accept the Christological dogmas promulgated by the Council of Chalcedon, which held that Jesus Christ has two natures — one divine and one human, although these were inseparable and only act as one hypostasis. To the hierarchs who would lead the Oriental Orthodox, this was tantamount to accepting Nestorianism. In response, they advocated a formula that stressed unity of the Incarnation over all other considerations. The Oriental Orthodox churches are therefore often called "Monophysite" churches, although they reject this label, which is associated with Eutychian Monophysitism, preferring the term "non-Chalcedonian" or "Miaphysite" churches. Oriental Orthodox Christians anathematize the Monophysite teachings of Eutyches. They are sometimes also known as "anti-Chalcedonians."
In the 20th century, a number of dialogues have occurred between the Oriental Orthodox and the Eastern/Byzantine Orthodox which have led some to suggest that both communions now share a common christology with differing terminology. However, the fact remains that all the Oriental Churches still do not accept the Ecumenical Councils beyond the third as of yet, and full communion has not been restored. And even though the Oriental Orthodox may not accept Eutychian Monophysitism, certain contemporary writings such as Pope Shenouda's book, The Nature of Christ, have led some to believe that anti-Chalcedonian christology teaches that Christ has one will and operation. Anti-Chalcedonian christology is therefore characterized by some as a Monothelite christology of the kind specifically condemned by St. Maximos the Confessor. Many of the individuals who claim that there are no differences between the churches are also not thoroughly familiar with the earlier apologetic writings of the saints from both sides of the conflict. For just one example of these writings, see St. John of Damascus' writings concerning the anti-Chalcedonian liturgical innovations in the Trisagion hymn . The Oriental churches have also reached some agreed christological statements issued in conjuction with the Roman Catholic Church.
Oriental Orthodox Communion
The Oriental Orthodox Communion is a group of churches within Oriental Orthodoxy which are in full communion with each other. The communion includes:
- The Church of Armenia (Armenian Apostolic Church)
- The Church of Antioch (Jacobite) (Syrian Orthodox)
- The Church of Alexandria (Coptic)
- The British Orthodox Church, canonically part of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria since 1994
- The Church of Ethiopia (Tewahedo Church)
- The Church of Eritrea (Tewahedo Church)
- The Church of India (Malankara, Indian Orthodox, Orthodox Syrian Church of the East)
Assyrian Church of the East
The Assyrian Church of the East (Nestorian Church) is sometimes considered an Oriental Orthodox Church, although they left the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in reaction to the Council of Ephesus 20 years earlier and revere as saints men anathematized by the previously mentioned Churches. In addition, they accept a Nestorian or Nestorian-like christology that is categorically rejected by the Oriental Orthodox Communion.
- The Armenian Apostolic Church
- Common declaration of Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
- The Coptic Church in the Diaspora
- The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
- Saint Takla Haymanot Coptic Orthodox Church (Alexandria, Egypt)
- Shroro - Orthodox Christian Digest
- Website on the unity between Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches
- Oriental Orthodox Churches
- Shroro - The Syriac Orthodox Christian Digest
- The Nature of Christ (PDF) by Pope Shenouda III (Gayyid) of Alexandria
- Opposition to Union with the Oriental Churches and the Unresolved Theological Differences Between the Two