The Greek Orthodox Church
The Greek Orthodox Church is one of the three major branches
of Christianity, which "stands in today's society as one of the
communities created by the apostles of Jesus in the region of the
eastern Mediterranean, and which spread by missionary activity
throughout Eastern Europe" (Meyendorff 5).The word orthodox comes
from Greek, meaning right-believing. currently the orthodox religion
has more than 174 million followers throughout the world.
The Greek Orthodox church is autocephalous, that is, governed
by its own head bishop. The head bishops of this autocephalous
church may be called patriarch, metropolitan, or archbishop. These
clergymen are much like the Pope in that they decide church doctrine
and generally make the important decision on controversial topics.
In its doctrinal statements, "the Greek Orthodox church strongly
affirms that it holds the original Christian faith, which was common to
East and West during the first millennium of Christian history"
More particularly, it recognizes the authority of the ecumenical
councils at which East and West were represented together. These were the
councils of Nicaea I (325), Constantinople (381), Ephesus(431),
Chalcedon(451), Constantinople II (553), Constantinople III (680), and Nicaea
II (787) (Encarta 1996). The power of teaching and
guiding the community is bestowed on certain ministries, particularly
that of the bishop of each diocese or is directed through certain
institutions, such as councils. Because the church is composed not
only of bishops, or of clergy, but of the whole laity as well, "the
Orthodox church strongly affirms that the guardian of truth is the entire
people of God" (Encarta 96).
The doctrine of seven sacraments is accepted in the Greek
Orthodox church, although no supreme authority has ever limited the
sacraments to that number. The central sacrament is the Eucharist;
the others are baptism, normally by immersion; confirmation, which
follows baptism immediately in the form of anointment with chrism;
penance; Holy Orders; marriage; and anointment of the sick. The
Greek Orthodox church admits married men to the priesthood.
Bishops, however, are elected from among celibate or widowed
The Greek Orthodox religion differs for many other religions in that
they express prayers and worship with pictures. This central function of
religious images, called icons, received its full definition following the end of
the iconoclastic movement in Byzantium (843). The iconoclasts
were looked upon as sacrilegious in that they resemble idols, which
were prohibited in the old testament . "The Orthodox theologians, on the other
hand, based their arguments on the specifically Christian doctrine of the
incarnation: God is indeed invisible and indescribable in
his essence, but when the Son of God became man, he voluntarily
assumed all the characteristics of created nature, including
Although there are many differences between the Eastern and Western
Churches, there is always the possibility of the two churches combining in
the future. If each church is willing to make small corrections in their
doctrine, the two churches that have been separated for hundreds of years,
could possibly combine in the decades ahead.
Microsoft Encarta. Computer software. Microsoft, 1996. Gateway PC-DOS
Meyendorff, Rev John. The Orthodox Church. New York: Ballantine, 1984.
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