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
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” (Meyendorff 18).
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”
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 clergy.
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 describability”(Meyendorff 21).
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.