About the Orthodox Christian Church

The Orthodox Church is the one, holy, catholic (universal), and apostolic Church. Within her are communities of churches where Orthodox Christians participate in the mystical (sacramental) life, drawing nearer to God through this life of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, confession, and communion.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Orthodox Church?

“The Orthodox Christian Church is evangelical, but not Protestant. It is orthodox, but not Jewish. It is catholic, but not Roman. It is not denominational, it is pre-denominational. It has believed, taught, preserved, defended, and died for the Faith of the Apostles since the Day of Pentecost 2,000 years ago.” – Our Life in Christ

Isn’t the Roman Catholic Church the original Christian Church?

While the Roman Catholic Church was in communion with original Christian Church for the first thousand years and will often point to it in their apostolic succession, there’s more to it than that:

The Christian Church from Apostolic times has always operated hierarchically yet also in conciliarity. For example, at the first Council in Jerusalem even with the Apostle Peter being present, the assembly of Apostles agreed and decreed together, “It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” (Acts 15:28).

This understanding of hierarchy and conciliarity was disrupted officially in 1054 A.D when legates of the See of Rome excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople. Legates of Rome attempted to claim unprecedented papal authority over the other four Christian patriarchs and, in doing so, separated the See of Rome and those within it from the rest of the church (this is called the Great Schism). Only after this unfortunate break in communion has the original Christian Church emphasized a distinction with the term “Orthodox,” which simply means “right glory” or “proper belief”.

The difference between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church is monumental. It has been said that Roman Catholicism and Protestantism are actually two sides of the same coin, each emphasizing opposite extremes of a transactional salvation. Roman Catholicism and Protestantism both portray, almost exclusively, God as a judge and salvation as being acquitted of guilt. But in Orthodox Christianity, God as judge is just one part of the picture and can only go so far in our understanding of Him (for example, “God is love.” 1 John 4:8). So, rather than defining “Salvation” primarily as a sentence of innocence pronounced by God as judge, the Orthodox Church has always emphasized salvation as union with God. This union happens because of the incarnation of Christ, by the invitation by God into a restored relationship with Him, through continual repentance, and healing of our soul within the sacramental context of the community in the Church.

If the Orthodox Church is the original, why am I only just now hearing about it?

For several reasons:

The countries where the Orthodox Faith has flourished (Greece, Russia, Romania, etc.) have all been at war and/or under extreme persecution by various dictators or foreign powers (“If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you…” – John 15:20). As you can imagine, it is difficult to formally evangelize when in a mode of survival. In the 20th century alone, as many as 40 million Orthodox Christians were martyred under Communist rule. The Orthodox Church is often referred to as “The Church of the Martyrs”.

The western hemisphere is dominated almost exclusively by the Roman Catholic Church. If not directly, then indirectly by those whose primary description of belief is against the Roman Catholic Church. It’s simply the way history happened. As of 2010 it was estimated there were only about 800,000 Orthodox Christians here in the United States (of the roughly 300 million worldwide). However, the Orthodox Church is becoming increasingly present and well-known in the U.S.

Orthodoxy, to the casual passerby, may look like Roman Catholicism. You may have seen scenes from an Orthodox service in a movie (though probably inaccurately portrayed) and just written it off as a form of Roman Catholicism. If you take a slightly closer look though, you’ll see that Orthodox Christianity is as different from Roman Catholicism / Protestantism as East is from the West.

Eastern / Greek / Russian Orthodox? What’s the difference?

The Orthodox Church can be found throughout the entire world and primarily uses the local language. Because of this, Orthodox parishes are often identified by the language that is used in the divine services or the national identity of parishioners, such as ‘Greek Orthodox,’ ‘Russian Orthodox,’ ‘Georgian Orthodox,’ etc. But this can be misleading; there is only one canonical Orthodox Church, and it is not tied to any particular nationality. All canonical Orthodox Churches profess the same beliefs.

Here’s an example of Orthodox Christian worship from a cathedral in the country of Georgia:

(Fun fact: Georgia was originally evangelized by the Apostle Andrew, and is the first country to adopt Christianity as the state religion).

The Orthodox Church is for everyone, regardless of ethnicity. As revealed in Acts 2:5-12 and as still happens to this day, there are converts from every sort of religious confession and nationality in Orthodox parishes throughout the world.

Why do the priests wear black dresses?

You could be asked a similar question: Why do you wear a tie or a uniform to work? Styles have changed over the past 2,000 years, but the cassock is the traditional clothing of Orthodox clergy. If you go to an Orthodox Church anywhere in the world, you’ll see the clergy all wearing the cassock. In America it’s an added benefit though because Orthodox clergy stick out like a sore thumb (free advertising).

It looks like Islam. Are you related?

No. Though they come from similar parts of the world, and therefore share some similar cultural appearances, Islam and Orthodoxy are different in both origin and beliefs. Islam was founded by a man named Muhammad about 1400 years ago, and Christianity was founded by Jesus Christ nearly 2,000 years ago.

Do you have monks and nuns?

Absolutely. Their prayers and the life they lead in monasteries are essential to every Orthodox Christian and to the entire world. Here is a quick overview of this importance:

For a more in depth look at some of the oldest monasteries in the world, here is a beautiful documentary done by 60 Minutes on CBS giving an insight into the life of Orthodox monastics on Mount Athos in Greece. Part 2 is available on YouTube here.