The Other Orthodox Family – Eastern Orthodox Churches
Orthodox Old Believers’ Family of Churches
These churches separated from the Russian Orthodox Church, in protest to the reforms introduced by Patriarch Nikon. Even though persecuted in the beginning, the Old Believers’ community survives to this day. The Russian Orthodox Church removed the Anathema on Old Believers as well. The Russian Government is presently helping to restore the rights of the Old Believers in the country. There are several families of Old Believers such as Popovtsy, Bezpopovtsy and several other related subgroups.
Some of the Old Believers, like Edinovertsy, have come under the canonical jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, and others like the Russian Orthodox Old Rite (Popovtsy) have begun a dialogue for recognition within the Church of Russia.
Unrecognized/Non-Canonical Eastern Orthodox Churches
(Old Calendar and Traditional Orthodox Family)
Old Calendarists and Traditionalists are Orthodox churches that use the historic Julian calendar and who remain out of communion with the mainstream canonical Orthodox churches. There are several types of Old Calendarist churches that are considered non-canonical by mainstream Orthodox churches. Some of them are Greek, Serbian, Romanian and Bulgarian Old Calendarist churches, but they are in communion with each other. There are canonical mainstream Orthodox churches (Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox-Russian, Serbian, Coptic and Ethiopian churches etc.) that use the old calendar, but they are not Old Calendarists.
Unrecognized Eastern Orthodox Patriarchates and Churches
There are several churches that fall in this category: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church—Kiev Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, the Macedonian Orthodox Church, the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, the Portuguese Orthodox Church and many more. Most of them are separated from mainstream communion due to historical and national issues, or canonical and political reasons. Some of them are partially recognized. Some of them are in dialogue with Eastern Orthodox churches to re-enter the communion.
New Generation and Other Independent Eastern Orthodox Churches
A large number of churches belong to this category. Many were founded in recent times but claim traditional apostolic lineage. Some practices are a combination of Orthodox, Latin and Protestant worship patterns. Many such groups are often criticized for using ‘Orthodox’ in their names while their faith or worship styles are not Orthodox.
Western Rite Orthodox Churches
Western Rite Communities are part of Orthodox Christianity (Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches) but use Western or Latin Liturgies. These communities are found predominantly within Roman Catholic or Protestant hubs. In Eastern Orthodoxy, Russian and Antiochian Churches have canonical Western Rite communities. However, several independent Western Rite churches and communions are not part of canonical Eastern or Oriental Orthodox Churches.
Western Orthodox Churches include the Celtic Church, the French Orthodox Church, the Orthodox Church of Gauls, the Catholic Orthodox Church of France, and the Milanese Apostolic Catholic Church. The Celtic Church, French Church and Church of Gauls are part of the Communion of Western Orthodox Churches. They recognize both Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches maintain the same faith and order.
1. Popovtsy Old Believers / Old Ritualists
2.Unrecognized Patriarchates / National Churches
3.Greek / Balkan Old Calendarist Churches
4.Russian “True Orthodox” Churches
5.Western-Rite Orthodox Churches
6.Other independent jurisdictions (Inclusive of New Generation)
We classify them in below format.
Orthodox Old Believers Family
These churches separated from the Russian Orthodox Church, in protest to the reforms introduced by Patriarch Nikon. Even though persecuted in the beginning, the Old believer’s community survived all difficulties until this day. The Russian Orthodox Church removed Anathema on Old Believers as well. The Russian Government at present helps them to get their rights restored in the country. There are several families of Old Believers like Popovtsy, Bezpopovtsy and several other related sub groups.
Some of the Old believers like Edinovertsy have come under the canonical jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate and others like Russian Orthodox Old Rite (Popovtsy) have begun a dialogue for recognition with the Church of Russia.
Un-Recognized/Non-Canonical Eastern Orthodox Churches
Old Calendar and Traditional Orthodox Family
Old Calendarist and traditionalists are those Orthodox Churches who uses the historic Julian calendar and who remain out of communion from the mainstream canonical Orthodox Churches. There are several types of Old Calenderist churches who are considered to be non-canonical by the mainstream Orthodox Churches. Some of them are Greek, Serbian, Romanian Bulgarian Old Calenderist churches, but who are in communion with each other. There are canonical mainstream Orthodox Churches (Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox -Russian, Serbian, Coptic, and Ethiopian Churches etc.) who are using the Old Calendar, but they are not Old Calenderists.
Unrecognized Patriarchates and Churches
There are several churches falling in this category, like the Ukrainian Orthodox Church- Kiev Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, the Macedonian Orthodox Church, the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, the Portuguese Orthodox Church and many more. Most of them are separated from the mainstream communion due to historical and national issues, canonical or political reasons. Some of them are partially recognized. Some of them have established dialogues with Eastern Orthodox churches to re-enter the communion.
Western Orthodox Churches
Some of the Western Orthodox Churches are the Celtic Church, the French, the Orthodox Church of Gaul’s, the Catholic Orthodox Church of France and the Milanese Apostolic Catholic Church etc. There are Western Rites which are within the canonical jurisdiction of the Orthodox Churches, but at the same time, there are several others not in communion with main-stream churches.
New generation and Other Independent Orthodox Churches
A large number of churches belongs to this category. Many originated in recent times but claim traditional apostolic lineage. Some practices are a combination of Orthodox, Latin and Protestant worship patterns. A large number of such groups is often criticized of using Orthodox to their names, but their faith or worship styles are not Orthodox.
Un-Recognized /Non-Canonical Oriental Orthodox Churches
There are several unrecognized Oriental Orthodox Churches. Some are well known historical churches, while others are not much heard of. Many of such churches trace their origin to Archbishop Rene Villate. A prominent example is The Malabar Independent Syrian Church/ Thoziyoor Sabha which has been founded by Bishop Abraham Mar Koorilose, which origins from the Syriac and Indian Orthodox Churches. Later the Church fell out of the Orthodox Communion. Afterwards, they established communion with and received ordinations from Protestant oriented Churches like the Marthoma Syrian Church of Malabar which itself separated from the Indian Orthodox Malankara Church.
There other churches like the Syro – Orthodox Francophone Church, the AntiochianSyriac Orthodox Church (A group of Syrian orthodox monks ordinated by the Indian Orthodox Church and established a Church in Europe, but later broke communion because of some illegal consecration of Bishops), the Independent Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (It is a break-away group from the AntiochianSyriac Orthodox Church). The Rene Vilatte Lineage has a large number of churches. Some of them are the Federation of St Thomas Christians in the USA (A federation of a number of churches in USA claiming to have their origin from Mar Joseph Rene Villate). A prominent member among them is the Marthoma Orthodox Church of America. They claim to practice a Syriac and Indian Malankara Orthodox system of worship. Another example of this category is the African Orthodox Church (Founded by Archbishop Rene Vilatte). There are many more in the list.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church- the Holy Synod in Exile (A groups of Bishops under the former Patriarch Merkarios of Ethiopia established a Church due to several historical, canonical and political reasons. The Church is operated from the USA). The Illegitimate Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church (The legitimate Patriarch AbuneAntonios was deposed by the Eritrean Government and AbuneDioskoros was installed), the Holy Synod of St. Athanasius Congregation for Egyptians and Middle Eastern Orthodox Christians (A group started by Maximus Youhanna, a former Coptic Orthodox member).
Detailed Reading on Old Believers, Old Calendar, Traditional, Unrecognized, Non-Canonical and New Generation Orthodox Churches (Eastern, Oriental and Western Orthodox Churches) is provided below:
Please note that many of the Old Calendar, Traditional, Unrecognized, Non-Canonical and New Generation Orthodox Churches change their communion circles , structure, and hierarchy time to time. Hence, details mentioned below are subject to change.
- Popovstsy Old Believer / Old Rite Orthodox / Russian Orthodox Old Rite
- Belokrinitskaya Hierarchy / Belokrinitskoesoglasie – tracing its roots to St. Ambrose of Sarajevo in 1846, comprised of two churches in communion with each other:
- Russian Orthodox Old Rite Church – based in Moscow
- Lipovan Orthodox Old – Rite Church– based in Romania
- Novozybkovskaya hierarchy / Russian Old Orthodox Church / Old Believer “Patriarchate of Moscow” (tracing its roots to Nikola of Saratov in 1923)
- Slavo-Georgian (Iberian) Old-Orthodox Church (break-away from the Russian Old Orthodox Church)
- Old Orthodox Church of Russia (break-away from the Russian Old Orthodox Church)
- “Clementite” Old Believers (of doubtful apostolicity and probably no longer in existence)
- Unrecognized Patriarchates/“National Churches” claiming Autocephaly / Autonomy
- Claimants for Ukrainian Autocephaly
Two major claimants:
- Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP)
- Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC)
Other, minor groups. The last two are active mainly in the diaspora.
- UAOC Eparchies (IhorIsichenko of Kharkiv and Poltava, etc.) that do not recognize Met. Mefodiy and commemorate Met. Constantine of the UOCOFUSA
- Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church – Canonical / Sobrapovorna (breakaway from UAOC) under “Patriarch Moisey” (OlehKulik). – Despite its name, it is notorious for its canonical infractions and heresies. In 2008 it’s “Metropolia of France” together with several of its bishops, seceded and joined a truly vagante organization, the “American Orthodox Catholic Church”
- (Autonomous) Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America (breakaway from UAOC, formerly formed one group with “Sobrapovorna” group)
Note: AUOCA has a Russian Orthodox Archdiocese of its own in addition to the Russian “True Orthodox” with which it is in communion
- Other Unrecognized Patriarchates & National Churches
- Macedonian Orthodox Church
- Montenegrin Orthodox Church
- Alternative Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church
- Orthodox Church of Italy (under the late Metropolitan Antonio (Rossi))
- Abkhazian Orthodox Church (breakaway from Georgian Patriarchate and is currently part of Moscow Patriarchate as an Autonomous Church)
- Autonomous Orthodox Catholic Church of Portugal (Portuguese bishops and most priests in schism with the Polish Orthodox Church since 2000)
- Belarusan Autocephalous Orthodox Church
- Italo-Greek Orthodox Church
(Note: the UOC-KP or Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate is in communion with the Macedonian Orthodox Church, the Orthodox Church of Italy, and the Alternative Bulgarian Synod. They all were apparently in communion with the Montenegrin Orthodox Church until recently, when communion was broken due to certain allegedly uncanonical acts of the latter)
III. Greek Orthodox “Old Calendarist” Churches – Paleoimerologites
- Florinites — via the Synods of Akakios and Auxentios
“Strict Ecclesiologists” / “Closed Communion” Groups
Note: All of these use the name “Genuine Orthodox Church of Greece” or “True Orthodox Church of Greece”
- Synod of Chrysostomos (Kiousis) / Chrysostomites / Kiousites – by far the largest Old Calendarist Synod, reputedly followed by 70% of all Old Calendarists.
- Serbian True Orthodox Church – no hierarch of its own; under the oversight of the Kiousite Synod.
- Synod of Makarios / Lamian Synod / Lamians – broke away from the Synod of Chrysostomos in the early 2000’s
- Bishop Niphon and another bishop – broke away from Lamians in 2006
- Synod of Maximos of Athens / Auxentites – a tiny group, made up of the clergy and bishops who had remained loyal to the late Archbishop Auxentios of Athens after most of the Auxentite Synod ousted Auxentios and proclaimed Chrysostom Kiousis as Archbishop of Athens in 1986.
- Holy Orthodox Metropolis of Boston (HOMB) formerly known as HOCNA (Holy Orthodox Church of North America). Known also as “Bostonites” and is classified as “Greek Orthodox Old Calendarist” but has a large “Russian True Orthodox” following and is actually in its origins a ROCOR break-away group. Following this group’s schism from ROCOR in 1986 it went under Archbishop Auxentios’s Synod, later headed by Archbishop Maximos. A few years later, following Auxientios’ repose, the bishops of what became HOCNA broke away from the Synod of Maximos.
- Georgian True Orthodox Church (no hierarch of its own, and is under HOMB)
Note: None of these five “Closed Communion” Old Calendarist groups are in communion with each other or with any other Church
- Moderate / “Open Communion” Groups
- Synod of Cyprian / Cyprianites / Synod in Resistance (includes the Diocese of Alania, which religiously dominates South Ossetia) — is in communion with the Romanian and Bulgarian Old Calendarists (see below).
- Metropolia of Avlon (Angelos) / Synod of Angelos of Avlon – broke away from Lamians then went into communion with Milan
Note: All these three groups trace their origins to the Florinite Synod of Auxentios. Milan and Avlon are in communion with each other
- Synod of Nicholas
- Synod of Gregory
- Synod of Kyrikos (in communion with a splinter Romanian Orthodox Old Calendar group that traces its orders to ROCOR)
- Faction of Chrysostomos of Salonika
(The Cypriot Old Calendarists are mostly Matthewites, splintered into supporters of Nicholas and – mostly — Kyrikos)
- Other Old Calendarist Churches
- Old Calendar Church of Romania (in communion with Synod of Cyprian)
- Old Calendar Church of Bulgaria (in communion with Synod of Cyprian)
- Russian “True Orthodox” Churches
- Breakaways from ROCOR (see also “HOCNA” above)
- Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC) under Metropolitan Valentine of Suzdal
- Russian True Orthodox Church (RTOC) under Metropolitan Tikhon / Russian Catacomb Church / Tikhonites / Lazarites (after the late Lazar Zhurbenko)
- ROCOR-PSCA – Agafangel (in communion with the Synod in Resistance and the Bulgarian and Romanian Old Calendarists)
- Synod of Archbishop Gregory of Denver (breakaway from ROAC)
The following four churches are the splinters of the ROCOR-V that formed in 2001 around the late Metropolitan Vitaly.
- ROCIE (former ROCOR-V) under Vladimir, Bartholomew (too sick to function) and Anastassy of Vladivostok
- ROCOR-A or ROCIE-A (Anthony Orlov and Victor Pivovarov)
- Breakaway from ROCOR-A group of Damascene (Balabanov) and Ioann (Zinoviev) of “Russian Orthodox Church-Archierarchical Synod”
- ROCIE – Anthony of Belstk and Moldova and single-handed consecrations (allegedly with ROCOR-V Bartholomew’s consent
- Other Russian “True Orthodox” Churches
- Russian True Orthodox Church – Metropolia of Moscow (in communion with and originating from the UAO).
- Russian True Orthodox Church under Metropolitan Rafail
- Russian Catacomb Church under Bishop Ambrose von Sievers / “Andrewites” (note: of doubtful apostolic succession)
- Rusyn True Orthodox Church – in western Ukraine
- The small group of deposed MP Bishop Diomid of Chukotka
(There are many others)
Note: The Greek Old Calendarist Orthodox Synods of Chrysostomos, Makarios, Kyrikos and the HOMB have “Russian True Orthodox” parishes in the Russian diaspora. Makarios and Kyrikos have their own Russian dioceses. The Synod of Milan and the Synod of Gregory of Denver, although generally classified as Greek Orthodox Old Calendarist, are actually Russian in origin. The Synod of Cyprian has a few Russian parishes and monasteries in the USA
- Western Orthodox Churches
- The Communion of Western Orthodox Churches, made up of the following Churches:
- Celtic Orthodox Church of Bishop Maelruain
- French Orthodox Church
- Orthodox Church of the Gauls
- L’ECOF (Catholic-Orthodox Church of France) – (originally canonical under the Russians then under Romania, became “vagante” in the 1990’s)
- Lusitanian Orthodox Church
- Milanese Apostolic Catholic Church
- Other Independent Jurisdictions
Apostolic Orthodox Church – a small Russian group in communion with UAOC (very liberal)
Alternative Orthodox Structures: An Overview
As already seen, all canonical Orthodox Churches are in full or at least partial communion with each other. In competition or in parallel with this worldwide structure, some non-canonical Orthodox Churches have established their own inter-communion structures, as follows:
1) The UOC-Kyiv Patriarchate has been vigorously seeking inter-communion with as many other “non-canonical” Orthodox Churches as possible. At present, it is in communion with the following:
- Alternative Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church (no more, since Metropolitan Innocent abandoned his functions and actually, the Alternative Synod is presided by Metropolitan Gervasios)
- Macedonian Orthodox Church
- Orthodox Church of Italy (Since the demise of Metropolitan Antonio Di Rosso, Orthodox Church in Italy does not exist anymore, even though the place was taken invalidate by BasilioGrilloMicei .
2) The UAOC – Is in communion with the Russian True Orthodox Church under Met. Vyacheslav as well as with the tiny “Apostolic Orthodox Church” of Fr. Gleb Yakunin in Russia.
3) The (Autonomous) Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America is in communion with the Russian True Orthodox Church under Metropolitan Rafail (since the ex-comunion of Metropolitan Benedict they have no communion with Raphail)
4) Old Calendarist Inter-Communion
- a) The Synod of Cyprian and the Old Calendar Churches of Romania and Bulgaria, as well as ROCOR-PSCA are in communion with each other
- b) The Holy Synod of Milan is in communion with the Synod of Avlon (Met. Eulogios of Milan has rejected his episcopacy and proclaims himself in Communion with Moscow Patriarchate without any formal response from Moscow), hence other bodies of Traditional Orthodoxy like Synod of Patristic Calendar ( “Avolon Synod”) no more consider Milan Synod in existence. The “Avlon Synod” is in full communion with True Orthodox Church of Rusia of Metropolitan Raphail, and the Autónomous Metropolis of USA and Britain Isles of Met. Jhon of New York)
5) Historically, the Italo-Greek Church was comprised mainly of ethnic Greeks living in Sicily and Italy. Today, that original mission is carried out by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy and Malta and Exarchate of Southern Europe, a diocese of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, with its See in Venice.
The Church of Sicily is of Apostolic foundation, having been established by Sts. Peter and Paul. St. Peter ordained the Church of Syracuse’s first bishop and St. Paul preached in Syracuse on his way to Rome. For the first 700 or so years of the Church’s history, the Italo-Greek Church was under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Rome. In the late eighth century, ecclesiastical jurisdiction shifted from Rome to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. When Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453, the Italo-Greek Church was cut off from its Mother Church and faced virtual extinction. Yet, small pockets of Italo-Greek faithful remained throughout Sicily and Southern Italy as did a number of Italo-Greek bishops and clergy. This small community was able to survive despite harsh circumstances but not as an organized eparchy or diocese. Bishops were bishops of localities rather than of regions or provinces. Because of this, the bishops and clergy were able, with various degrees of success, to establish relationships among the “locals” (Sicilians) and small communities were established and grew. It is this work that the Italo-Greek Orthodox Church has continued to this day, although the work is still very difficult.
Milanese Apostolic Catholic Church and Lusitanian Orthodox Church are all in communion with each other (all use the Old Calendar but are not considered as part of the Old Calendarist – TOC movement).
As per information, the Holy Metropolitan Synod (GOX) of Patristic Calendar of Metropolitan Angelos of Avlon, have two Metropolitan’s: Christophor of Tblisi, and Metropolitan Ioatam of Abhazia, both ex members of the Patriarchate of Georgia, who have established the True Orthodox Church of Georgia.
In Latin American Church has receives a TOMOS of autonomy since the 10th of November of 2010 in order to establish the Orthodox Church of Latin America, in dependence (sinodically) to the Synod of Avlon but independent in the governance. In future its aims to become the Latin American Synod in dependence to Metropolitan Angelos.)
Traditional, Unrecognized and New Generation Oriental Orthodox Jurisdictions
There are several unrecognized Oriental Orthodox churches; some are well-known historical churches, while others remain inconspicuous. A prominent example is the Malabar Independent Syrian Church/Thoziyoor Sabha founded by Bishop Abraham Mar Koorilose and originating from the Syriac and Indian Orthodox Churches. Later, the Church fell out of the Orthodox communion. Afterwards, they established communion with, and received ordinations from, Protestant-oriented churches like the Marthoma Syrian Church of Malabar, which itself separated from the Indian Orthodox Malankara Church.There are other churches like the Syro–Orthodox Francophone Church (an Oriental Orthodox Church based in France that practises Syriac-Malankara Rites), the Antiochian Syriac Orthodox Church (A group of Syrian Orthodox monks ordained by the Indian Orthodox Church established a Church in Europe, but later broke communion due to the illegal consecration of bishops. Presently this Church is a diocese of one of the Old Calendar Orthodox Churches of Greece), the Independent Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (Consists of breakaway groups from the Antiochian Syriac Orthodox Church), the Ethiopian Orthodox Church—the Holy Synod in Exile (A group of bishops under the former Patriarch Merkarios of Ethiopia established a Church for several historical, canonical and political reasons. This Church is operated from the USA), the non-canonical Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church (Abune Antonios was deposed by the Eritrean Government and Abune Dioskoros was installed. Abune Dioskoros passed away in 2017. Abune Atonios remains under house arrest.), the Holy Synod of St Athanasius Congregation for Egyptians and Middle Eastern Orthodox Christians (a group started by Maximus Youhanna, a former Coptic Orthodox member), the Ethiopian Orthodox Coptic Church of North and South America (another unrecognized group that claims they were founded by the Ethiopian Prelate Abune Mikael. They are associated with several unrecognized Orthodox Churches and Western Orthodox Rites).