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Offline Ary_girl

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Why different churches?
« on: February 25, 2008, 02:45:14 AM »
Hello all,
Forgive me for my absolute and utter ignorance.  I am starting to look into the Orthodox Church, I have heard about the different branches, (ROCOR, GOC, etc.) but am wondering what exactly those differences are.  I don't have that much, if any background knowledge, and hoped that someone might be able to explain the differences or lead me to a website that gives a synopsis of them. 
Thank you for your help,
Ary

Offline John of the North

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2008, 03:17:26 AM »
Ok, there may be some new terminology involved here.

There is One Church of Christ. Period. In most cases (barring a group who has removed themselves from Communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch.....aka Constantinople) all of these groups-which I like to call the Alphabet Soup-the Russians, the Ukrainians, the Greeks, the Antiochians, the Serbians, the OCA etc etc etc are all members of this One Church. They are jurisdictions of this one church.

Now, how I see is that in the early days of the church, there were only small, localized pockets of the Church. As a result, there was a small number of Bishops. Over the later centuries, as the Church grew, the population exploded. Therefore it didn't make any sense to have say one bishop presiding over all of Ukraine. Therefore each country has over the years been granted various degrees of latitude over how they handled the local affairs of the Church, elevating new bishops etc. In some cases, such as Serbia and Romania and Russia, the local Church is completely autocephalous, that is they have full independence from Constantinople. In other cases, due to various reasons, the local Church does not have the same independence.

In conclusion, I would like to note the following. All of these jurisdictions share in common the doctrine that the Church has declared neccessary for our salvation for the last two millenia. Although at times, cultural traditions have crept into each jurisdiction, the essential core beliefs remain unaltered.
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Offline Elisha

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2008, 03:28:15 AM »
Ary_Girl,

Just go and visit the (Orthodox) church near you or multiple if there are more than one (e.g. if there is an OCA, GOA, Antiochain, ROCOR, etc.), and after a few visits start asking these questions of the priest.  At first, just go to the services and observe what is going on in the service (NOT the parishioners).  Only pay attention to parishioners when it comes to hospitality or lack therof.

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2008, 03:45:01 AM »
Ary_girl,

Welcome to OC.net.  I pray that we can be of assistance to you in your search for answers about the Orthodox Church and that you will find this forum in general an edifying place to dialogue with other Christians.  To better facilitate your inquiry, I moved this thread to the Convert Issues section.  You should find that the moderator here, Thomas, is very open and welcoming to seekers such as yourself, so make yourself known to him and feel free to ask him and the others of us Orthodox who post here whatever questions you need to ask.


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Offline Fr. George

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2008, 07:17:31 AM »
Hello all,

Hello and welcome!

Forgive me for my absolute and utter ignorance. 

No apologies necessary.  Sometimes we make things more complicated than they need to be, and sometimes the confusing situation has come about because of factors outside of our control.  The multiple churches in the U.S. (i.e. GOA - Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, OCA - Orthodox Church of America, AOA - Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese, etc.) have come about because of both situations: the process of Orthodoxy coming to America (and staying here) had lots of roadbumps, and to a certain degree we've also made it more complicated than it needs to be.

I am starting to look into the Orthodox Church, I have heard about the different branches, (ROCOR, GOC, etc.) but am wondering what exactly those differences are.  I don't have that much, if any background knowledge, and hoped that someone might be able to explain the differences or lead me to a website that gives a synopsis of them. 

I'm going to echo what Elisha said: Each of the Churches has its own unique expression of the same faith, and they are united to one another by that faith.  Sometimes people will feel comfortable in any of the environments; sometimes they will feel more comfortable in one of the Churches rather than the others.  In addition to any and all inquiries you make here, I would suggest beginning a physical experience of the Orthodox Church.  Visit the Churches in your area; if you've only got one, then great (less confusion, maybe); if you have many, then that's also great (as you can see how different people manifest the same faith).

And, as Elisha suggested, most definitely speak with one or more of the priests of those Churches, and develop a rapport with them.  Pick their brains.  I've found them to be generally helpful.

Thank you for your help,
Ary 

We're here to help as much as we can.  I'm glad you've found OrthodoxChristianity.net (or, as we affectionately call it, OC.net), and I hope you find your time here to be helpful and edifying!
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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2008, 09:07:06 AM »
Welcome Ary_girl !

As section moderator of the Convert issues Forum, I welcome you to OC,Net. We are happy to have you here and will endevour to answer your questions as you continue to investigate the Orthodox Christian Church. As  answered by our fellow members of OC.netm the Orthodox Church is one church with many locations around the world, it is important to understand that although we are many Church of many nationalities we are but one and the same church. Enjoy the diversity  and understand the oneness of the Holy Church. We are here to answer your questions.

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Offline FrChris

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2008, 10:37:56 AM »
Welcome, Ary_girl to OC.net!

I just want to reiterate what so many have stated: feel free to post questions, and Private Message anyone who you feel you may want additional information from but might not want the entire Internet to know about!
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Offline Didymus

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2008, 11:03:39 AM »
Peace be with you Ary_girl.

If I may provide an Oriental Orthodox perspective on this please...

Essentially all Orthodox Churches are simply different nationalistic expressions of the same Orthodox Christian Faith.

Baring semantic and historical issues related to the Council of Chalcedon (451A.D.), all Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches hold the same Faith.

The only real difference is that the Eastern Orthodox continue to distinguish between the divine nature of Christ and the human nature of Christ after they were united.

Oriental Orthodox consider it pointless to refer to two natures after they were united. (The word 'united' in itself means that they were 'made one'.) Hence the Oriental Orthodox refer to "one incarnate nature" of Christ or 'miaphysite' (meaning a compound one as opposed to a singular one [ie monophysite]).

The two families of Orthodox Churches seem very close to uniting again and indeed some are already in inter-communion in certain parts of the world.
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Offline Heorhij

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2008, 11:27:49 AM »
Dear Ary_girl,

May I just add to the excellent responses above that I, a Ukrainian by birth, have recently started to visit a Greek Orthodox mission in a nearby city, and I do not find it terribly "foreign." The prishioners are mostly Greeks, but the service, chanted mostly in English, is exactly the same Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom as in any other Orthodox church of the world - Ukrainian, Russian, Bulgarian, OCA, ACROD, etc., or, for that matter, as in my little Ukrainian pocket-size prayer book! National or regional Orthodox churches do not differ one from another in faith.

I, too, will be praying for you in your search for the Truth.

George

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Offline Simayan

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2008, 05:20:17 PM »
The two families of Orthodox Churches seem very close to uniting again and indeed some are already in inter-communion in certain parts of the world.

Like in Maine.  :D

Ary_girl, just wanted to echo everybody's welcome to the forum. Many people interested in Orthodoxy come across the same question as you had (myself included before I converted). Essentially, jurisdictions allow each culture to develop its own "flavor" of Orthodoxy while maintaining the central doctrines that we all hold. Perhaps not very important in America or other western countries, but in places such as Japan, forcing Greek or Russian upon the population would hinder attempts at establishing a church in the area.
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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2008, 05:27:57 PM »
Welcome to the forum! Ask away! 


Offline Ary_girl

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2008, 09:56:00 PM »
Thank you all for being so welcoming.  ;D

I have one Orthodox Church in my town, it's a GOC.  I have never been to it, nor do I know where it is, but I will try to look it up sometime if I can.  So, basically the OC is made up of jurisdictions and each jurisdiction has their own way of expressing the faith?  How are they held together?  What is the central system of beliefs, the seven ecumenical councils, or is there more?  How do the Orientals view the ecumenical councils?  Do they accept them all?

Offline Fr. George

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2008, 11:31:14 PM »
So, basically the OC is made up of jurisdictions and each jurisdiction has their own way of expressing the faith? 

Yes.  The Orthodox faith, through evangelism, population movement, and political factors, traveled to many countries, each with their own unique culture.  When it arrived in those countries, it adopted those things within the indigenous culture that were compatible with the faith.  Thus, you'll see the same Faith and Truth with different packaging.  For example (a relatively harmless one): we believe that a couple when they are being married are crowned with a crown of martyrdom (i.e. witness and self-sacrifice), and in doing so are also crowned into Christ's royal family (not that they weren't before).  Thus, the Eastern Orthodox (EO) have crowns at the wedding.  But, in the Greek/Middle Eastern tradition the crowns are generally white and look like they were made from a branch; in the Russian/Slavic tradition, the crowns look like Royal Crowns.  Get the idea?

How are they held together?  What is the central system of beliefs, the seven ecumenical councils, or is there more? 

They are held together by the Body and Blood of Christ: Communion.  We use the phrase "in communion" to describe our relationship amongst each other.  A brief synopsis:

The local community (i.e. the parish) is connected to their bishop, because he gives them their priest and permission to serve, because they commemorate him in the liturgy and he prays for them, and because of the unique relationship between Bishop and flock.

So the parishes of a diocese are connected to one another through their communion with the Bishop.  Various local diocese are connected to one another through their bishops' participation in the local Synod (the Council of Bishops); they are connected through their bishop's commemoration of the President of that local Synod.

Synods are connected through their presidents, who commemorate the president of the synod they also participate in (a larger synod).  Normally, at this point, one is referring to "Patriarchs" and the other heads of Autocephalous (meaning self-led or self-headed) churches.  These Patriarchs commemorate one another, and in doing so, connect themselves, their synods, the lowers synods, and the parishes to one another.

That's the how, now here's the why:  It is the duty of the laity, bishops, archbishops, etc. to ensure that those they are in Communion with practice the true faith.  If there is any indication that they are not, they are obligated to attempt to correct them, and if that fails, to cease communion.

So what is the true faith?  We believe that various synods - ones called by the Emperor (Imperial or Ecumenical Synods), ones that gather various Church leaders (Endemousa Synods and other miscellaneous synods) have expounded for us the faith in the face of those who would poison it.  We believe that various saints and apologists have done the same.  So the true faith is found in the decrees of the synods, the writings of the fathers, the written Word of the Lord (i.e. the Gospel and the Scriptures), and a few other sources.

How do the Orientals view the ecumenical councils?  Do they accept them all? 

They accept those councils which they actively participated in: the first three.  Beginning with what the EO would call the 4th Ecumenical Council (in Chalcedon), the OO were separated from the EO, and thus they don't recognize the 4th and on as Ecumenical; however, many will acknowledge that some truth was promulgated by these other synods that they don't accept as Ecumenical.
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Offline Starlight

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2008, 11:50:55 PM »
Ary_girl,
Welcome to the forum! I am sure you will love here. Actually, I was born in Ukraine as well. From my perspective, I also did feel friendliness and acceptance when I was visiting other parishes, including those of Sister Orthodox Jurisdictions.  Furthermore, when I lived in UK for a short time, I used to belong to a Greek Orthodox parish there.

Offline wynd

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2008, 12:15:03 AM »
So, basically the OC is made up of jurisdictions and each jurisdiction has their own way of expressing the faith?

Just wanted to clarify this point. Culturally yes, they can be different. I think a good example of this is the fact that Byzantine chant sounds very different from Russian choral music, which sounds very different from traditional Georgian chant, etc., or the crown example mentioned earlier, or the style of vestments, or other things like that -- but all Eastern Orthodox churches believe and teach the exact same things when it comes to faith and doctrines. And that is what holds the Church together.

Offline Amdetsion

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #15 on: February 26, 2008, 01:13:55 AM »
Ary_Girl,

Just go and visit the (Orthodox) church near you or multiple if there are more than one (e.g. if there is an OCA, GOA, Antiochain, ROCOR, etc.), and after a few visits start asking these questions of the priest.  At first, just go to the services and observe what is going on in the service (NOT the parishioners).  Only pay attention to parishioners when it comes to hospitality or lack therof.

Very good point!!!
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Offline Amdetsion

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #16 on: February 26, 2008, 01:24:51 AM »
Dear Ary_girl,

May I just add to the excellent responses above that I, a Ukrainian by birth, have recently started to visit a Greek Orthodox mission in a nearby city, and I do not find it terribly "foreign." The prishioners are mostly Greeks, but the service, chanted mostly in English, is exactly the same Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom as in any other Orthodox church of the world - Ukrainian, Russian, Bulgarian, OCA, ACROD, etc., or, for that matter, as in my little Ukrainian pocket-size prayer book! National or regional Orthodox churches do not differ one from another in faith.

I, too, will be praying for you in your search for the Truth.

George



Of the various posts made here this is a very good point to remember. Even in Ethiopia we celebrate the same St. John Chrysostom.

The liturgy is the richness of the Christian Orthodox faith, beleif and worship.
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Offline Amdetsion

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #17 on: February 26, 2008, 01:35:10 AM »
Peace be with you Ary_girl.

If I may provide an Oriental Orthodox perspective on this please...

Essentially all Orthodox Churches are simply different nationalistic expressions of the same Orthodox Christian Faith.

Baring semantic and historical issues related to the Council of Chalcedon (451A.D.), all Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches hold the same Faith.

The only real difference is that the Eastern Orthodox continue to distinguish between the divine nature of Christ and the human nature of Christ after they were united.

Oriental Orthodox consider it pointless to refer to two natures after they were united. (The word 'united' in itself means that they were 'made one'.) Hence the Oriental Orthodox refer to "one incarnate nature" of Christ or 'miaphysite' (meaning a compound one as opposed to a singular one [ie monophysite]).

The two families of Orthodox Churches seem very close to uniting again and indeed some are already in inter-communion in certain parts of the world.

This may seem confusing but it is quite simple. But for now it may be best to follow this point of view until you know more. The (OO or oriental orthodox and EO or eastern orthodox) are the 'Orthodox' Church. The Fathers of our communities currently have resolved all open issues that were once contintious and are working out how to proceed with future relations. Some in this forum or other forums may speak with contempt regarding OO but its out of habit and lack of information. Old habits are hard to break.

I am happy for you.

Welcome!

I pray that you find what you seek.
"ETHIOPIA shall soon stretch out her hands unto God".....Psalm 68:vs 31

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Offline GreekChef

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #18 on: February 26, 2008, 11:25:34 PM »
Welcome, Ary_girl!

It makes me so happy to see how beautifully everyone is responding in this thread, so I'm not going to add anything of substance at this point.    ;D

I just wanted to add my welcome to the group.  I pray that God bless you and guide you on your journey!

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Offline Ary_girl

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #19 on: March 02, 2008, 04:31:46 PM »
very interesting.  Thanks for outlining the structure of the Orthodox Church.  When it comes down to it everyone is connected by communion.  The Oriental and Eastern parts of the Orthodox church are both in communion with each other. Yet, if the OC is held together by communion, why isn't the Catholic Church considered to by in union with the OC?  As I understand it the OC accepts the CC communion as valid, since they, too, can trace their bishops back to the apostles.  If it is then valid, why are they not in communion, after all, it is the same body and blood of Christ?

Offline Heorhij

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #20 on: March 02, 2008, 05:12:41 PM »
very interesting.  Thanks for outlining the structure of the Orthodox Church.  When it comes down to it everyone is connected by communion.  The Oriental and Eastern parts of the Orthodox church are both in communion with each other. Yet, if the OC is held together by communion, why isn't the Catholic Church considered to by in union with the OC?  As I understand it the OC accepts the CC communion as valid, since they, too, can trace their bishops back to the apostles.  If it is then valid, why are they not in communion, after all, it is the same body and blood of Christ?

Because of some very principal doctrinal differences. The Orthodox Church does not accept the Roman dogma of the primacy of the pope, and the Roman dogma of "filioque" (the idea that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son). There are some other doctrinal differences, but these two, as far as I understand, are the most important.
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Offline John of the North

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #21 on: March 03, 2008, 04:11:05 AM »
very interesting.  Thanks for outlining the structure of the Orthodox Church.  When it comes down to it everyone is connected by communion.  The Oriental and Eastern parts of the Orthodox church are both in communion with each other. Yet, if the OC is held together by communion, why isn't the Catholic Church considered to by in union with the OC?  As I understand it the OC accepts the CC communion as valid, since they, too, can trace their bishops back to the apostles.  If it is then valid, why are they not in communion, after all, it is the same body and blood of Christ?

We are not in total Communion with the Oriental Orthodox. That said I do believe that regional exceptions may occur.
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Offline Veniamin

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #22 on: March 03, 2008, 08:56:53 AM »
very interesting.  Thanks for outlining the structure of the Orthodox Church.  When it comes down to it everyone is connected by communion.  The Oriental and Eastern parts of the Orthodox church are both in communion with each other. Yet, if the OC is held together by communion, why isn't the Catholic Church considered to by in union with the OC?  As I understand it the OC accepts the CC communion as valid, since they, too, can trace their bishops back to the apostles.  If it is then valid, why are they not in communion, after all, it is the same body and blood of Christ?

The Orthodox are mostly definitely not in communion with the Latins and don't pass recognize their sacraments.  We are not in communion with them because they have a different faith than us, despite what people will tell you.  Some will go so far as to make the claim that they have sacramental grace, but that is not something taught by our doctrine.  At best, we can only say we don't know, one way or the other, whether they have any grace, because God may act wheresoever He pleases.
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Offline The young fogey

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #23 on: March 03, 2008, 10:45:12 AM »
Answering several things at once....

Quote
barring a group who has removed themselves from Communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch.....aka Constantinople

No, it's more like what cleveland said. Communion which at the moment happens to include Constantinople. Being in communion with Constantinople doesn't define being Orthodox like being under Rome defines being Roman Catholic.

Which answers Ary_girl's question why the Orthodox and Roman Catholics aren't in communion. They both believe in an infallible church, bishops and the Eucharist as the Body and Blood of Christ - so both are not Protestant - but differ in their belief on what makes the church the church, on what holds the church together.

There is no Orthodox doctrine on other churches' sacraments other than Orthodox sacraments have grace. There is lots of allowable opinion on the subject including Veniamin's negative view.

There hasn't been a formal declaration of communion but there might be someday: the near-consensus is that the Oriental Orthodox weren't Monophysite heretics after all and are really non-Byzantine Rite estranged Orthodox.
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Offline Simayan

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #24 on: March 03, 2008, 05:11:48 PM »
There hasn't been a formal declaration of communion but there might be someday: the near-consensus is that the Oriental Orthodox weren't Monophysite heretics after all and are really non-Byzantine Rite estranged Orthodox.

+1

But yes, we aren't in communion with the Roman Catholics. We may be similar on many points, but Papal Supremacy and Original Sin are the main sticking issues.

Filioque is mentioned by some, but was mostly emphasis placed against Arianism (which most German barbarians were at the time) that the Son was indeed God. The Papacy didn't use it for some time after Spain and France adopted it, so in my opinion, it was a cultural sticking point that has never really gone away.
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Offline The young fogey

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #25 on: March 03, 2008, 05:29:40 PM »
That should have been clearer:

The near-consensus is that the Oriental Orthodox weren't Monophysite heretics after all and are really non-Byzantine Rite estranged Orthodox. There hasn't been a formal declaration of communion but there might be someday.
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Offline scamandrius

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #26 on: March 03, 2008, 09:18:28 PM »
The near-consensus is that the Oriental Orthodox weren't Monophysite heretics after all and are really non-Byzantine Rite estranged Orthodox. There hasn't been a formal declaration of communion but there might be someday.

And we should hope and pray for that.  At the same time, regardless of whether the Oriental Orthodox are merely estranged and non-Byzantine rite does not give individual hierarchs, whether bishops or patriarchs, to unilaterally extend to them full communion especially since this must be addressed ONLY by ecumenical council.
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Offline Thomas

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #27 on: March 04, 2008, 02:55:00 PM »
Actually, a pariarch or Bishop can do just that.  If it becomes an issue then a local council may be called and its decisons are reviewed and approved or denied by the ecumenical council.  There are far more local councils to deal with issues locally than there are Ecumenical councils. One would hope that the Patriarch wishing to change policy would address it to the proper council level before taking unilateral action.

Thomas
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Thomas

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Re: Why different churches?
« Reply #28 on: March 08, 2008, 11:59:12 PM »
That should have been clearer:

The near-consensus is that the Oriental Orthodox weren't Monophysite heretics after all and are really non-Byzantine Rite estranged Orthodox. There hasn't been a formal declaration of communion but there might be someday.

A great summary!