During the Christian age, the Greek Orthodox church was one of the first churches to have been founded. This church is based on the beliefs that Jesus Christ was the only son of God and he was the founder of the Christian faith. These beliefs are still held today.
Early Christian churches
During the first eight centuries of Christianity, most major developments took place in the Eastern Mediterranean region. It was there that Greek culture and Christian thought began to develop. At the same time, Christianity in the west was shaped by Latin culture.
The earliest Christians gathered in homes and villages. They read and sung the scriptures, but they had very limited access to the written Word. Consequently, a large number of their teachings were passed on orally.
The New Testament records some of the early Christian doctrine. The first church was built for worship. Churches were often made of heavy stone and had no friezes or windows. There were also smaller factions that gathered in different places.
A new order of things was required. In order to organize the church, a patriarchate was founded. Saints Paul and Peter founded the Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem. Missionaries from Constantinople converted people in the eastern Mediterranean. They translated the Bible and the liturgical texts into local languages.
Early ecumenical councils
During the early ecumenical councils of Greek orthodoxy, church leaders from all over the world met to discuss theological issues for the purpose of promoting Christian unity. The decisions made at these meetings were considered binding on all Christians.
The first ecumenical council was held in Ephesus, a city in Turkey. The emperor called the council, and its decisions became imperial law. During the council, the emperor presided over the proceedings. He was surrounded by the Patriarchs. The Holy Gospels were placed in the center of the assembly.
The emperors, who controlled the ecumenical councils, were often motivated by political considerations. Their goal was to bring all of the Christians in the empire into a unity that was legal. They also sought to enforce the theological conclusions of the bishops.
Whether you consider yourself a Christian or not, it is important to understand the role that the Greek Orthodox Church has played as defender of the faith. This includes fighting against foreign ideologies from Ottoman times to the present. During the twentieth century, the Church of Constantinople experienced the worst form of suffering.
When Constantinople was occupied by Turkish troops, 100,000 Greeks were taken captive. The Greek Orthodox First Church, referred to as the Ecumenical Patriarchate, was created. This church is the successor of Saints Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom.
The Fourth Ecumenical Council (also called the Chalcedon Council), held in 451 AD, affirmed that Jesus is the true God. It also condemned Arius’ teaching that the second person of the Holy Trinity is a creature.
Eastern vs western schism
During the Middle Ages, schisms between Eastern and Western Christian churches arose over theological and political issues. These disagreements had been growing for several centuries, but a formal separation was only declared in the year 1054. This schism was known as the East-West Schism, or Ecumenical Schism.
The Western and Eastern Christian churches differed over issues such as celibacy, the role of the pope, and the nature of Jesus. Conflicts intensified over political interests and prejudices.
The Eastern Orthodox Church believed that the pope has no absolute authority. It also believed that Jesus’ human and divine natures were one. In contrast, the Roman Catholic Church believed that the pope has supreme authority.
The Roman Catholic Church also believes that Mary’s Immaculate Conception is a dogma. This belief is one of the main reasons that the East-West Schism took place.
Origins of the Orthodox Church in America
During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Russian Orthodox mission spread throughout the North American continent. After Alaska was sold to the United States in 1867, Russian Orthodox churches established dioceses in several regions.
In 1840, Sitka, Alaska was established as the bishop’s seat. The Russian Orthodox mission established parishes for several ethnic groups. In 1868, the first parish church outside Alaska was established in San Francisco.
Russian Orthodox missionaries also translated Scripture into native Alaskan dialects. Father John Veniaminov was a missionary who wrote a new alphabet for the native dialects. These missionaries brought many Alaskans to the Orthodox Christian faith.
By the late 19th century, numerous ethnic groups were establishing dioceses of their own. These congregations asked for priests from their home countries. In 1924, the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America became self-governing. This allowed Orthodox Americans to define their religious affiliation without referring to their ethnic origin.