Orthodox Church

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The Orthodox Church is the same 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 Churches trace unbroken succession to the very apostles themselves, therefore ultimately receiving their consecrations from our Lord Jesus Christ. All the bishops of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, 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 Eastern Orthodox Churches.

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.

Very brief history

Almost two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth and founded the Church, through His Apostles and disciples, for the salvation of man. In the years which followed, the Apostles spread the Church and its teachings and founded many churches, all united in faith, worship, and the partaking of the Mysteries (or as they are called in the West, the Sacraments) of the Holy Church. The churches founded by the Apostles themselves include the Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Rome and Constantinople. The Church of Alexandria was founded by St. Mark, the Church of Antioch by St Paul, the Church of Jerusalem by Ss. Peter and James, the Church of Rome by Ss. Peter and Paul, and Church of Constantinople by St Andrew. Those founded in later years through the missionary activity of the first churches were the Churches of Sinai, Russia, Greece, Serbia, Serbia, Serbia, and many others.

Each church has always had independent administration, but, with the exception of the Church of Rome, which finally separated from the others in the year 1054, are united in faith, doctrine, Apostolic tradition, sacraments, liturgies, and services. Together they constitute and are called the “Orthodox Church”, literally means "right teaching" or "right worship", derived from two Greek words: orthos, "right," and doxa, "teaching" or "worship."

Current Church structure

The Eastern Orthodox Churches of today consist of a family of fourteen or fifteen autocephalous churches and five autonomous churches, sometimes referred to as jurisdictions. The number of autocephalous churches has varied in history. 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. It is hoped that the Great Schism, with the Church of Rome, will someday be mended too.

The Patriarchate of Constantinople is also the Ecumenical Patriarchate and has the status of "first among equals" among the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The Church is not a centralized organization headed by a pontiff, but an organic community guided by the Holy Spirit in the world. The unity of the Church is visible in, and held together with, common faith and communion in the sacraments. No one but Christ himself is the real head of the Orthodox Church.

See: List of autocephalous and autonomous Churches

Number of Adherents

The most common estimates of the number of Orthodox Christians worldwide is approximately 225-300 million individuals.[1].

Other estimates such as in The Encyclopedia of the Developing World[2] places the number of overall Orthodox worshippers in 1996 at 182 million individuals, including the following breakdown:

  • Russian Federation: 70-80 million
  • Ukraine: close to 30 million
  • Romania: 20 million
  • Greece: 9.5 million
  • United States: close to 7 million
  • Serbia and Montenegro: close to 7 million
  • Bulgaria: 6 million
  • Belarus: 5 million
  • Kazakhstan: 4 million
  • Moldavia: 3 million
  • Georgia: 2.8 million
  • FYROM: 1.2 million
  • Uzbekistan: 900,000
  • Poland: 800,000
  • Germany: 550,000
  • Australia: 480,000
  • United Kingdom: 440,000
  • Latvia: 400,000
  • Estonia: 300,000
  • France: 260,000
  • Lithuania: 150,000
  • Austria: about 70,000
  • Switzerland: about 70,000
  • Finland: 56,000


  1. Eastern Orthodox Church: Number of Adherents at Wikipedia.
  2. Thomas M. Leonard. Encyclopedia of the Developing World: Vol 3, O-Z Index. Taylor & Francis, 2006.

See also

Further reading

Published works

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)
  • Cunningham, Mary. Faith in the Byzantine World (IVP Histories Series). (ISBN 0830823522)
  • 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)
  • Ware, Timothy. The Orthodox Church. (ISBN 0140146563)

From a Heterodox perspective

  • Binns, John. An Introduction to the Christian Orthodox Churches. (ISBN 0521667380)
  • Fairbairn, Donald. Eastern Orthodoxy Through Western Eyes. (ISBN 0664224970)
  • 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)

External links

Overviews of the Orthodox Church

Byzantine Studies