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The Orthodox Church - History and Denominations

The Orthodox Church - History and Denominations

The Orthodox Church is one of the oldest churches of the world. This SpiritualRay article tells you all about the Orthodox Christian Church and its denominations.
Alex Mathew
One Faith, Different Approaches!
Although the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches have their many differences, they maintain almost identical worship practices, doctrines, and Church structures.
The Orthodox church is perhaps one of the most misunderstood or rather little understood churches of the world. Contrary to popular belief, the Orthodox church is amongst the oldest churches of the world, and is one of the three biggest churches of the world. The Orthodox Church is mainly eastern in origin, while the Catholic and Protestant churches are western Christian groups. There are two main sections of the Orthodox Church, the Eastern Orthodox (Byzantine Orthodox) and Oriental Orthodox Churches. Here's taking a brief look at the history of the Orthodox Church along with a list of churches that form this institution.
What does Orthodox mean?
The common misconception that people have about the term orthodox is that it means old, outdated, or narrow-minded. The term orthodoxy is derived from the Greek words orthos (right, correct) and doxa (glory, belief). So, simply put, orthodox means the right way to glorify God. The Orthodox Church lays a lot of emphasis on the traditions of the Church, and very little has changed in this regard right from the times of the Apostles. Unlike the modern-day translation of the term tradition, the Church prescribes to the Greek word paradosis, which means giving or offering. In the theological sense, it is the teaching or practices that have been passed down from generations and can be traced back to Christ himself. This is, undoubtedly, the very foundation of the Orthodox Church. This is in tune with the teachings of St. Paul from the Bible.

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
- Galatians 1: 8 - 9 (NKJV)

Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.
- 2 Thessolonians 2:15 (NKJV)
History of the Orthodox Church
According to Christian belief, after the Pentecost, the Apostles were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and set out to the corners of the world to spread the Word of God. This mission was called the Great Commission. By the early first century, they established about 40 churches across the globe. Out of these Apostolic Churches, 28 were in Asia and Africa, while the rest were in Europe. As mentioned earlier, the Orthodox Church was largely based in the East―mainly Asia and Europe. The Orthodox Church claims to be the true successor of these Apostolic Churches and has retained the true tradition of the Christian Church. In fact, until the Council of Chalcedon in 451 CE, the entire Christian Church was united.
Formation of the Oriental Orthodox Church
The Council of Chalcedon promoted the idea that Jesus is in two natures―divine and human. To Pope Dioscorus the Great, the Patriarch of Alexandria, and 13 Egyptian Bishops, this was no different than accepting the teachings of Nestorius. They were strongly opposed to describing God to be 'in two natures', and instead accepted 'of or from two natures'. This led to the schism between the Oriental Orthodox Church and the rest of the Churches in the fifth century CE. The Oriental Orthodox Church accepts only the first three Synods (Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus) as ecumenical.

The Oriental Orthodox family consists of 5 main churches, that in Syria, India, Armenia, Egypt, and Ethiopia. Together, they have a strength of over 85 million members.
Formation of the Eastern Orthodox Church
The Great Schism or East-West Schism between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Churches, which later were called the Eastern Orthodox Churches, occurred in 1054 CE. There were some major differences in the teachings of the Chalcedonian Churches of the East and that of the West. The major points of conflict between the two were:
  • Insertion of the term filioque by the Western Church in the Latin version of the Nicene Creed
  • Papal claims of supremacy
  • Teachings about purgatory and indulgences by the Western Church
Thus, the Eastern Orthodox Church split from the Roman Catholic Church, and even went on to excommunicate each other. The Catholic Church has since been in partial communion with the Orthodox Churches. What this means is that Catholic priests are forbidden from celebrating the Eucharist with priests or ministers of the Orthodox Churches and vice versa.

The Byzantine Orthodox family is mainly concentrated in Russia, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, the Balkans, Western Europe, America, and Australia. This is the second largest Christian Church in the world and has more than 250 million members.
List of Orthodox Churches
Eastern Orthodox Churches (In Full Communion)
Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople
Established by Apostle Andrew
Headquarters at Istanbul, Turkey
Headed by H.H. Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I
  • Finnish Orthodox Church
  • Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church
  • Patriarchal Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe
  • Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
  • Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
  • Korean Orthodox Church
Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa
Established by Apostle Mark
Headquarters at Cairo, Egypt
Headed by H.H. Pope and Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa, Theodore II
Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All The East
Established by Apostles Peter and Paul
Headquarters at Damascus, Syria
Headed by H.H. Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, John X Yazigi
  • Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem
Established by The Apostles
Headquarters at Jerusalem, Israel
Headed by H.H. Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and all Palestine, Syria, beyond the Jordan River, Cana of Galilee, and Holy Zion, Theophilos III
  • Saint Catherine's Monastery
Patriarchate of Moscow and All Russia
Established by Apostle Andrew and Vladimir the Great
Headquarters at Moscow, Russia
Headed by H.H. Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus' and Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, Krill
  • Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
  • Orthodox Church in America
  • Belarusian Orthodox Church
  • Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate)
  • Estonian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate
  • Latvian Orthodox Church
  • Moldovan Orthodox Church
  • Japanese Orthodox Church
Patriarchate of Peć and the Serbian Lands
Established by Saint Sava
Headquarters at Belgrade, Serbia
Headed by H.H. Archbishop of Peć, Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci, Serbian Patriarch, Irinej
  • Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric
Patriarchate of All Romania
Established by Miron Cristea and Ferdinand I
Headquarters at Bucharest, Romania
Headed by H.H. Archbishop of Bucharest, Metropolitan of Muntenia and Dobrogea, Locum tenens of the throne of Caesarea Cappadociae, and Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Daniel
  • Metropolis of Bessarabia
Patriarchate of All Bulgaria
Established by Saint Andrew and Boris I of Bulgaria
Headquarters at Sofia, Bulgaria
Headed by H.H. Patriarch of Bulgaria and Metropolitan of Sofia, Neophyte
Patriarchate of All Georgia
Established by Saint Andrew and Saint Nino
Headquarters at Tbilisi, Georgia
Headed by H.H. Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, the Archbishop of Mtskheta-Tbilisi and Metropolitan bishop of Bichvinta and Tskhum-Abkhazia, Ilia II
Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus
Established by Apostle Barnabas
Headquarters at Nicosia, Cyprus
Headed by H.H. Archbishop of Nova Justiniana and All Cyprus, Chrysostomos II
Orthodox Church of Greece
Established by Apostle Paul
Headquarters at Athens, Greece
Headed by H.H. Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Ieronymos II
Orthodox Church of Poland
Established by Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius
Headquarters at Warsaw, Poland
Headed by H.H. Archbishop of Warsaw and Metropolitan of All Poland, Sawa Hrycuniak
Orthodox Church of Albania
Established by Apostle Paul and Theofan Stilian Noli
Headquarters at Tirana, Albania
Headed by H.H. Archbishop of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania, Anastasios
Orthodox Church of the Czech lands and Slovakia
Established by Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius
Headquarters at Prague, Czech Republic
Headed by H.H. Archbishop of Prešov, Metropolitan of the Czech lands and Slovakia, Rastislav
Eastern Orthodox Churches (Not In Communion)
Traditionalist schisms
  • Greek Old Calendarists Matthewites
  • Greek Old Calendarists Florinites
  • Smyrnaean Orthodox Church
  • Holy Orthodox Church in North America
  • Orthodox Church of Greece (Holy Synod in Resistance)
  • Old Calendar Romanian Orthodox Church
  • Old Calendar Bulgarian Orthodox Church
  • Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church
  • Lipovan Orthodox Old-Rite Church
  • Russian Old-Orthodox Church
  • Pomorian Old-Orthodox Church
Nationalist schisms
  • Abkhazian Orthodox Church
  • Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church
  • Bulgarian Orthodox Church - Alternative synod
  • Croatian Orthodox Church
  • Macedonian Orthodox Church - Ohrid Archbishopric
  • Montenegrin Orthodox Church
  • Russian Orthodox Church in America
  • Russian True Orthodox Church
  • Autocephalous Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate
  • Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchate
  • Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church
  • Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church - Canonical
  • Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church of N.S.America 1921-Synod
  • Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of America and Australia
Oriental Orthodox Churches (In Full Communion)
Armenian Apostolic Church
Established by Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus
Headquarters at Vagharshapat, Armenia
Headed by H.H. Surpreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, Karekin II
  • Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople
  • Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem
  • Catholicossate of the Great House of Cilicia
Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria
Established by Apostle Mark
Headquarters at Alexandria, Egypt
Headed by H.H. Pope of Alexandria & Patriarch of All Africa on the Holy Apostolic See of St. Mark the Evangelist of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Tawadros II
  • British Orthodox Church
  • French Coptic Orthodox Church
Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch
Established by Apostle Mark
Headquarters at Damascus, Syria
Headed by H.H. Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II
  • Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church
Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
Established by Apostle Thomas
Headquarters at Kerala, India
Headed by H.H. Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan, Moran Mor Baselious Marthoma Paulose II
  • Brahmavar (Goan) Orthodox Church
Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
Established by Saint Frumentius
Headquarters at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Headed by H.H. Patriarch and Catholicos of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Abune Mathias
Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church
Established by Apostle Mark and Saint Frumentius
Headquarters at Asmara, Eritrea
Headed by H.H. Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Abune Dioskoros
Oriental Orthodox Churches (Not In Communion)
  • Malabar Independent Syrian Church of India
  • Syriac Orthodox Church of Germany of Moosa Gurgan
The Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches are essentially sister churches, and are separated by ideological differences, rather than that of faith. In the past decade, the patriarchs of these churches have been working towards the reunification of the Orthodox Church. Although a lot of progress has been made on this front, something substantial is yet to emerge from it. Perhaps, in the the not-too-distant future, we could all be proud to say that we're Christians, with no prefixes or suffixes attached. God bless.