On the one hand, it is the oldest Church in Christendom. On the other hand, it’s new to most people in North America. Holy Orthodoxy is the second largest body in Christendom with 225 million people worldwide. But in the U.S. and Canada there are less than six million faithful. In the twentieth century alone, an estimated 40 million Orthodox Christians gave their lives for their faith, primarily under communism. So high is the commitment of many Orthodox Christians to Christ and His Church, she has often been called “the Church of the Martyrs.” She is the Church of some of history’s greatest theologians, scholars, and writers— people like John Chrysostom, Justin Martyr, Augustine, Dostoyevsky, and Alexander Solzehenitsyn.
But what exactly is this Orthodox Church? What are her roots? What are her beliefs? And why are there so many who have never heard of her? The Orthodox Church is the original Christian Church, the Church founded by the Lord Jesus Christ and described in the pages of the New Testament. Her history can be traced in unbroken continuity all the way back to Christ and His Twelve Apostles. Incredible as it seems, for over twenty centuries she has continued in her undiminished and unaltered faith and practice. Today her apostolic doctrine, worship, and structure remain intact. The Orthodox Church maintains that the Church is the living Body of Jesus Christ.
Many are surprised to learn that for the first 1,000 years of Christian history there was just one Church. It was in the eleventh century that a disastrous split occurred between Orthodox East and Latin West. Although it had been brewing for years, the so-called “Great Schism” of 1054 represented a formal—and shocking— separation between Rome and Orthodoxy. At the core of the controversy were two vitally important areas of disagreement: the role of the papacy, and the manner in which doctrine is to be interpreted.
The Christian Church is based in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, who has come in to the world as a man for our salvation. This is the foundational belief of every true Christian. “Orthodox” means right teaching or right worship, and we understand our Orthodox Christian faith to be the full and right revelation of God’s desire for us to believe in Him, know Him, abide in Him and receive eternal life from Him. The clearest and most concise explanation of our faith can be found in the ancient Nicene Creed.