Following on a previous post, it is time to expand on the largest group of Eastern Churches…The Eastern Orthodox Churches.
Under this group there are 14 self-governing churches but in in full sacramental communion with each other. Additionally, it is important to note that although they used the term Eastern as identifier, their orthodoxy is neither eastern nor western.
Out of these 14 churches, five have an autonomous status but they are connected through a Holy Synod that elects their heads and regulates particular customs. These five are:
1. The Patriarchate of Constantinople
2. The Patriarchate of Alexandria
3. The Patriarchate of Antioch
4. The Patriarchate of Jerusalem
5. The Orthodox Church of Russia
Additionally, there 9 autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Churches (Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Cyprus, Greece, Poland and Albania). Now to complicate the matter, one can find an additional 5 autonomous but canonical dependent on one of the 9 autocephalous Churches, namely: Finland, Estonia, Church of Mount SInai, Japan and China.
Overall, these Churches tend to be united in faith, but canonically no decision can be made in the name of the Orthodox Church…unless there is unanimous approval from all the churches.
Historically speaking, each church has its own story in the rift with Rome, specially the events of 1054 caused by ecclesiological and doctrinal rivalries. The division between the Churches were further compounded by the events of the Crusades, especially the 4th Crusade in 1203.