The Eastern Orthodox Church is the second largest single Christian communion in the world. It is considered by its adherents to be the very same Church established by Christ and his Apostles. It is composed of numerous theologically unified autocephalous ecclesial bodies, each shepherded by a synod of independent bishops whose duty is to preserve the beliefs and practices of the Church. All Orthodox bishops trace their lineage back to one of the twelve Apostles through the process of apostolic succession. Eastern Orthodox Christians believe that the Orthodox Church is the authentic and original Christian Church established by Jesus Christ and his Apostles. As such, the Eastern Orthodox Church views its role as the preserver of the teachings and traditions given to the Early Christians by the Apostles nearly 2,000 years ago and the developer of conciliar interpretations which expand and illuminate the original teachings.
About the name
Members of the Eastern Orthodox Church usually refer to themselves as simply Orthodox. Eastern is a term often applied in the Western World for the sake of clarity. When one considers the name of the Church one must place it within its historical context. From the beginning Christians referred to their Church as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. While today, a number of other Churches also lay claim to this title (The Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, the Assyrian Church, the Coptic Church, and others), the Orthodox Church sees these other Churches as break-away groups; the Assyrians and Copts broke from the church after the first few centuries and the Roman Catholics in the 11th century (see: East-West Schism). The term “Orthodox” translates from the Greek to mean “Correctly Believing” and was adopted by the Church in order to distinguish itself from what was becoming a larger and larger body of non-orthodox Christian denominations. What unites the Orthodox is their theology, which is the same across the board, but because each congregation is governed by its local bishop (or synod of bishops), differences in style and custom are common between countries. These local customs are referred to as differences in “Typica” and are perfectly acceptable within the Church since they do not conflict with the Theology. Thus it is that many Orthodox Churches adopt a national title (e.g. Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, etc.) and this title serves to distinguish which language, which bishops, and which typica is followed by that particular congregation. Members of the Church are free to associate with any congregation regardless of typical differences though most members tend to gravitate to whichever group makes them feel most comfortable. Because of theological and spiritual unity and because of their devotion to the original teachings and traditions of the Christian faith; the Orthodox consider themselves to be the only valid continuation of the original One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Several other ancient Churches in Eastern Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa also use the term Orthodox, but are distinct from the Eastern Orthodox Church as described in this article.
Number of members
Based on the numbers of adherents, Eastern Orthodoxy is the second largest Christian communion in the world after the Roman Catholic Church. The most common estimates of the number of Eastern Orthodox Christians worldwide is approximately 225-300 million individuals in addition 400 million non goers total is 700 million+ orthodox world wide.. Orthodoxy is the largest single religious faith in Belarus (88%), Bulgaria (83%), FYROM (80%), Republic of Cyprus (80%), Georgia (89%), Greece (98%), Moldova (98%), Montenegro (84%), Romania (87%), Serbia (84%),, Russia (80%),and Ukraine (80%).The number of Eastern Orthodox adherents represents about 39% of the population in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As the dominant religion in northern Kazakhstan, it represents 44% of the Kazakhstan, and 4% of Lithuania, 9% of Latvia, and 13% of the Estonian population. Large Christian Orthodox communities exist in the middle eastern countries of Israel/Palestine (including the West Bank and Gaza), Lebanon, Syria and Jordan (some families can trace their ancestry to the earliest Christians of the Holy Land). In addition, there are also significant Orthodox communities in Western Europe (solely the transplanted Romanian, Serbian, Albanian, Greek and Russian communities), Africa, Asia, Australia, North America, and South America through the pattern of immigration from Eastern Europe and the Middle East in the last 400 or some years.