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 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. Its primary statement of faith is the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.
Current Church structure
The Orthodox Church of today consists of fourteen or fifteen autocephalous churches and five 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 Patriarchate of Constantinople is also the Ecumenical Patriarchate and has the status of "first among equals" among the Orthodox Churches.
The following are published writings that provide an introduction or overview of the Orthodox Church and its teachings:
From an Orthodox perspective
- Alfeyev, Hilarion; Rose, Jessica, ed. The Mystery of Faith: An Introduction to the Teaching and Spirituality of the Orthodox Church. (ISBN 0232524726)
- Bajis, Jordan. Common Ground: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity for the American Christian. (ISBN 0937032816)
- Bulgakov, Sergius. The Orthodox Church. (ISBN 0881410519)
- Chryssavgis, John. Light Through Darkness: The Orthodox Tradition (Traditions of Christian Spirituality Series). (ISBN 1570755485)
- Coniaris, Anthony M. Introducing the Orthodox Church: Its Faith and Life. (ISBN 0937032255)
- Constantelos, Demetrios J. Understanding the Greek Orthodox Church. (ISBN 0917653505)
- Florovsky, George. Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View. (ISBN 0913124028)
From a Heterodox perspective
- Binns, John. An Introduction to the Christian Orthodox Churches. (ISBN 0521667380)
- Cunningham, Mary. Faith in the Byzantine World (IVP Histories Series). (ISBN 0830823522)
- Fortescue, Adrian. The Orthodox Eastern Church. (ISBN 0971598614)
- Roberson, Ronald. The Eastern Christian Churches: A Brief Survey. (ISBN 8872103215) - (also available online)
- Parry, Ken, ed.; Melling, David J., ed.; Brady, Dimitri, ed.; Griffith, Sidney Harrison, ed.; Healey, John F., ed. The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity. (ISBN 0631232036)
- Orthodoxy: The Narrow Path