The Orthodox Church Today

The Orthodox Church today is not a centralized organization. Its present structure is based partly on ancient Christian tradition, which gives a certain preeminence to the four ancient Patriarchates whose glory goes back to the time of the first Ecumenical councils, and partly on more recent social and political realities. Orthodox Churches throughout the world today are either under the spiritual jurisdiction of the four ancient Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, or the Patriarchates of Moscow, Serbia, and Romania, or one of the Autocephalous (self-governing, independent) Churches, such as the Church of Greece, Cyprus, and others. The Orthodox Church is thus a family of self-governing Churches. It is held together, not by a centralized organization, nor by a single prelate wielding absolute power over the whole body, but by the double bond of unity in the Faith and communion in the sacraments.

Each Church, while independent, is in full agreement with the rest on all matters of doctrine, and between them all there is full sacramental communion. There is in Orthodoxy no one with an equivalent position to the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church. The Patriarch of Constantinople is known as the Ecumenical Patriarch, and since the schism between east and west he has enjoyed a position of special honor among all the Orthodox communities, but he does not have the right to interfere in the internal affairs of other Churches.

Orthodox Churches can be found in all parts of the world from the Congo to Korea, and from Alaska to New Zealand. In the Americas, the Orthodox Church is made up of several jurisdictions: Russian, Carpatho-Russian, Syrian, Serbian, Ukranian, Greek, Albanian, Bulgarian, and other smaller groups, totalling approximately five million communicants.

Nativity of Christ parish belongs to the Diocese of San Francisco, which is part of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America with central headquarters in New York City. Our Archdiocese is under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. For further information regarding the Orthodox Church, inquiries can be made by calling the parish office.