The Orthodox Church as a whole is the unity of what are called local autocephalous or autonomous churches. These words mean simply that these churches govern themselves, electing their own bishops and organizing their own lives. Each of these churches has exactly the same doctrine, discipline and spiritual practices.
They use the same Bible, follow the same canon laws, confess the authority of the same Church Councils and worship by what is essentially the same liturgy.
It is nothing other than this communion in faith and practice which unites all Orthodox Churches together into one world-wide body. In this sense, there is no one dominating authority in the Orthodox Church, no particular bishop or see or document which hasy over the churches. Continue reading “Orthodoxy”
Autonomous Orthodox churches are those churches which have self-government. Autonomy (literally, “self-ruled”) is the status of a church within the Orthodox Church whose primatial bishop is confirmed by one of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches. In all other respects, an autonomous church is entirely self-governing.
There are five Orthodox churches which, although functioning independently on a day-to-day basis, are canonically dependent on an autocephalous Orthodox church.
In practice this means that the head of an autonomous church must be confirmed in office by the Holy Synod of its mother autocephalous church.
The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America (often referred to in North America simply as the Antiochian Archdiocese) is the sole jurisdiction of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada with exclusive jurisdiction over the Antiochian Orthodox faithful in those countries, though these faithful were originally cared for by the Russian Orthodox Church in America (indeed, the first bishop consecrated in North America, St. Raphael Hawaweeny, was consecrated by the Russian Orthodox Church in America to care for the Orthodox Arab faithful in the USA and Canada).