The Orthodox Church is the Church founded by Jesus Christ and His Apostles, begun at the day of Pentecost with the descent of the Holy Spirit in the year 33 A.D. It is also known (especially in the contemporary West) as the Eastern Orthodox Church or the Greek Orthodox Church. It may also be called the Orthodox Catholic Church, the Orthodox Christian Church, the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, or simply the Church.
The bishops of the Orthodox Church trace unbroken Apostolic Succession to the very apostles themselves, therefore ultimately receiving their consecrations from our Lord Jesus Christ. All the bishops of the Church, no matter their titles, are equal in their sacramental office. The various titles given to bishops are simply administrative or honorific in their essence. At an Ecumenical Council, each bishop may cast only one vote, whether he is the Ecumenical Patriarch or simply an auxiliary bishop without a diocese. Thus, there is no equivalent to the Roman Catholic papacy within the Orthodox Church.
As with its Apostolic Succession, the faith held by the Church is that which was handed by Christ to the Apostles. Nothing is added to or subtracted from that deposit of faith which was "handed once for all to the saints" (Jude 3). Throughout history, various heresies have afflicted the Church, and at those times the Church makes dogmatic pronouncements (especially at Ecumenical Councils) delineating in new language what has always been believed by the Church, thus preventing the spread of heresy and calling to repentance those who rend asunder the Body of Christ.
Current Church Structure
The Orthodox Church of today consists of fourteen or fifteen autocephalous churches and four autonomous churches, sometimes referred to as jurisdictions. Autocephalous churches are fully self-governing in all they do, while autonomous churches must have their primates confirmed by one of the autocephalous churches, usually its mother church. All the Orthodox Churches remain in full communion with one another, sharing the same faith and praxis. There have been occasional breaks in communion due to various problems throughout history, but they generally remain brief and not developing into full schism.
The Autocephalous Churches, in order of precedence:
- Church of Constantinople
- Church of Alexandria
- Church of Antioch
- Church of Jerusalem
- Church of Russia
- Church of Georgia
- Church of Serbia
- Church of Romania
- Church of Bulgaria
- Church of Cyprus
- Church of Greece
- Church of Albania
- Church of Poland
- Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia
- Orthodox Church in America (autocephaly not recognized by all)
The Autonomous Churches, in order of precedence: