The Orthodox Church today is a communion of self governing Churches, each administratively independent of the other, but united by a common faith and spirituality. Their underlying unity is based on identity of doctrines, sacramental life and worship, which distinguishes Orthodox Christianity. All recognize the spiritual preeminence of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople who is acknowledged as primus inter pares, first among equals. All share full communion with one another. The living tradition of the Church and the principles of concord and harmony are expressed through the common mind of the universal episcopate as the need arises. In all other matters, the internal life of each independent Church is administered by the bishops of that particular Church. Following the ancient principle of the one people of God in each place and the universal priesthood of all believers, the laity share equally in the responsibility for the preservation and propagation of the Christian faith and Church.

 

In addition to the four ancient Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem with their several geographic and ecclesiastical subdivisions, there are also many independent or autocephalous Orthodox Christian Churches. These include the Churches of Russia, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Finland, Albania and Sinai. Smaller autonomous Orthodox Churches and missions can be found on every continent throughout the world. ~ Rev. Robert G. Stephanopoulos, Ph.D