What is the Orthodox Church?
It is through prayer and worship that God is not merely known about, but known and experienced. And through Jesus Christ, the Church – Christ’s Body – has become this place of encounter with God, heaven on earth (Ephesians 1:10)
The Orthodox Christian Church is a worldwide body of believers who confess and worship Jesus Christ as the Son of God, as Lord and Messiah. This body has a tangible and continuous history of Christian faith and practice from the time of Christ’s Apostles. The use of the adjective “orthodox” to describe the Church dates back to the earliest centuries and was applied to those Christians who maintained the tradition transmitted by Christ’s Apostles (1 these. 2:15).
The Orthodox Church is therefore not a “denomination” and predates both denominationalism and non-denominationalism. She has been labeled as “Eastern” by historians to acknowledge that Christ’s Church began and flourished initially in the Eastern portion of the Roman Empire, and to distinguish her from what eventually became separate church bodies in the Western Hemisphere. However, the Orthodox Church is not reserved for certain ethnicities (e.g. Greek, Russian) but is for all people.
The Orthodox Church is currently the second largest body of Christians in the world, with 225 million adherents across the globe. Many today are rediscovering the depth and richness of the ancient Christian tradition that remains steadfast and unchanging in regard to the “faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).
Whatever their national or regional origins, all Orthodox churches share the same faith and are united to one another in “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4.5). The Head of the Orthodox Church is Jesus Christ. There is no earthly head of the Orthodox Church. All bishops are equal, sharing the same ministerial grace and forming a brotherhood to which each is accountable. It is not an earthly leader that holds the Church together but adherence to the Orthodox Faith – in the words of St. Vincent of Lerins, that which “has been believed everywhere, at all times, and by all.”
Since “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8), the Church has no need to conform to the newest fads or philosophies. She does, however, adapt to new circumstances, adopt the language of the indigenous people, and embrace everything godly and good in any culture in which she finds herself.