The bishops themselves are all members of the Assembly of Bishops and meet regularly.
To what degree do the parishes answer to the bishops, do they send delegations to a meeting, or something?
Rome broke from the Orthodox and the Protestants broke from Rome.
The Romans and Easterns both claim to be the original and that the other broke away from them. The fact that the Eastern one never had any major splits as the Roman did indicates to me that the Eastern was the original.
If you want to attend a canonical Eastern Orthodox Church (which is in communion with all of the Orthodox), make sure that the Ukrainian Church is a Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. The hierarchs should be listed as Metropolitan Antony and/or Bishop Daniel. There has been a schism in Ukraine and some of the non-canonical churches have established parishes here in the USA. There are only a few such, however. That's a topic for another day.
Yeah, I'm not sure. They don't have a website as they are a small country parish. I found it at orthodoxyinamerica.org, if that means anything.
1. The ancient principle of the church is that "where the bishop is, there is the Church." See the writings of the holy father Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans. St. Ignatius (ca. 35? - ca. 117?) was a disciple of the Apostle John and served as the third Bishop of Antioch (the ruins of which are now on the Turkish-Syrian border). So we take what he says to be very important. Anyway, you can read his writings more fully online. But the point is that, as near as we can tell, in the early days each church was drawn from a region of people and was led by the bishop, who conducted divine services. Soon, however, these communities multiplied so much that the bishop couldn't be in all of the places at once. So he deputized presbyters (priests) to serve the liturgy in his place. Thus, the priest acts only in place of the bishop and is answerable to his bishop in all things. Theoretically, he can do nothing without the permission of his bishop. In modern times, bishops generally give priests latitude to run the more mundane aspects of their parishes (most parishes here have a parish council of laypeople to assist the priest). The bishop must be consulted for more substantive actions, and the bishop makes it a point to visit the parishes in his territory regularly. (In the Ukrainian tradition, as in others, I'm sure, this is beautiful; as the bishop approaches the church the bells are rung and he is greeted with the traditional gifts of bread and salt as he enters the church). At least in our tradition, every year there is a Sobor (a council) which is held, led by the bishops, and to which the parishes all send delegates, both clergy and lay. There, important decisions are taken concerning the life of the church. These meetings cannot be used to alter doctrine, or anything of that sort; considerations of the faith of the church are taken only by the bishops meeting together in council.
2. There were several groups who, in the judgment of the Eastern Orthodox, left the Orthodox Church throughout its history. This is complicated.
a. In the years following 431 (the Council of Ephesus), the Church of the East (encompassing Persia/India) broke communion over the Council's declaration that Christ was one person with human and divine natures and thus Mary can be called the "Mother of God." These Christians today are the rather small Assyrian Church of the East and a small branch are the Ancient Church of the East (under a different hierarch) and were predominantly in Iraq and Persia, but the Iraq War has decimated their ranks and caused many to flee. In the 16th century some joined with Rome but kept their ceremonies and are known as the Chaldean Catholic Church.
b. In the years following 451 (the Council of Chalcedon), numerous churches broke with the Eastern Orthodox because they could not agree with the Council's definition on the relationship between the two natures of Christ (human and divine). These churches are known as the Oriental Orthodox Churches or the Non-Chalcedonian Churches. They include the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (in India, founded by St. Thomas the Apostle), and the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch. Although the Oriental Orthodox and the Eastern Orthodox are not in communion, in recent years, diligent labors have been undertaken to determine the differences and understanding. It is generally now recognized that the two churches may have been trying to define the same thing using slightly different words and that this, plus political differences, are the reason behind the split. Because they have been out of communion for 1500 years, however, it will take some time to resolve all of the differences that have arisen since that time.
c. In the Middle Ages, the Roman Church began to develop different doctrines and practices which became out of harmony with those of the other Orthodox Churches. Communication was strained, and the relationship was broken when the Roman Church inserted a phrase into the creed unilaterally (that the Holy Spirit proceeded both from the Father and the Son), when the Pope of Rome asserted supremacy over the other Orthodox bishops in all matters, when the legates of the Pope of Rome excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople in the year 1054, and when zealous Catholic Crusaders sacked the city of Constantinople in 1204, defiling the holy places and setting up a Latin Patriarch who reported to Rome. In my mind this split was final around the time that the Council of Florence (1439) tried to reunify the sides, was initially accepted by many of the bishops, but was rejected outright by the Orthodox faithful at home when they learned that they would have to accept all manner of Roman innovation. Some portions of Orthodox Churches, for political and sometimes theological reasons, accepted the authority of Rome and its theology while being permitted to maintain their own rites. They are known as the "Greek Catholic Churches" or the "Eastern Catholic Churches," and came from both Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox communions. Dialogue between the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches began in earnest in the 1960s and continues today. You may have heard that, for the first time in history, the Patriarch of Constantinople attended the inauguration of the Pope of Rome. But we differ with the Roman Catholics on many important points of doctrine and it will take considerable effort to see how much can be resolved through semantics and how much is truly a difference of faith which must be strongly considered.
d. Another group is worth mentioning. In the mid-17th century, Patriarch Nikon of Moscow attempted to reform the Russian Orthodox liturgy to bring it in line with the liturgy as then practiced by the Greek Orthodox Church. He did this because he mistakenly believed that the Greek liturgy was older when, in fact, it had itself been revised in some points. A group of people, unwilling to accept the validity of the Greek liturgy (and the revised Russian liturgy), broke off and became known as the "Old Believers." They have since split and split again; some have priests, some don't, etc. They exist in Russia and some are in the USA now. Some of them have since reunited with canonical Orthodoxy.
e. In the 20th century there are some who have declined to remain in communion with the Eastern Orthodox because of the changes to the calendar and perceived ecumenical efforts. They are often called the "Old Calendarists."
3. Use the site www.assemblyofbishops.org
. If the parish doesn't have a website, e-mail or call (even better) the number listed to confirm the service times. If you explain your interest and the priest knows you're coming he may be able to set aside some more time to talk with you if you'd like. You'll probably be able to catch him at the coffee hour after church (almost all of our parishes have one, in my experience) but he is very busy and it might be good to let him know ahead of time so he'd be more prepared to be available to answer your questions. I invite you to try the Ukrainian parish. Our traditions are beautiful (as are the others, I'm sure) and our melodies are more European-sounding so might be more familiar to your ear. The language of the parish will probably depend on how many immigrants are in the church. It might be split, as well, with some prayers in English and some in Ukrainian. You might want to call the priest and ask. In any event, most churches have service books printed in both languages so you can follow along, if need be.
Please let us know if you have other questions or if we can help you in your quest to discover more about the Orthodox Church!Thanks for getting back on topic---great post BTW! Thomas Convert Issues Forum Moderator