WHO WE ARE?
The Orthodox Church worships God in continuity with the earliest Church, and as such is the oldest Church.
It is a Church of balance: between the mystical and the real; between spirituality and theology; between worship and service of humanity. Everything is in balance, otherwise known as "right worship" (Orthodox).
It is not a denomination, but rather pre-denominational. It is not a religion but rather a life with God in Christ.
The Orthodox Church worships God in "spirit and truth" and dynamically incarnates that truth in every age - empowering all people from all walks of life to love God, others, and themselves.
A more detailed look at the Orthodox Church?
• On the one hand, it is the oldest Church in Christendom. On the other hand, it’s new to most people in western society.
• It is the second largest body in Christendom with 225 million people worldwide.
• 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?
A Brief History:
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 of us are surprised to learn that for the first 1000 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.
But What Is the Real Difference?
One writer has compared Orthodoxy to the faith of Rome and Protestantism in this basic fashion: Orthodoxy has maintained the New Testament tradition, whereas Rome has often added to it and Protestantism subtracted from it. This is not to say that there is not authentic truth in these Churches, but simply that Orthodoxy is in continuity with the earliest Church.
For example, Rome added to the ancient Creed of the Church, while numerous Protestant Churches rarely study or recite it. Rome has layers of ecclesiastical authority; much of Protestantism is anti-hierarchical or even “independent” in polity. Rome introduced indulgences and purgatory; in reaction, Protestantism shies away from good works and discipline.
In these and other matters, the Orthodox Church has steadfastly maintained the Apostolic Faith. She has avoided both the excesses of papal rule and of congregational independence. She understands the clergy as servants of Christ and His people and not as a special privileged class. She preserved the Apostles’ doctrine of the return of Christ at the end of the age, of the last judgement and eternal life, and continues to encourage her people to grow in Christ through union with Him. In a word, Orthodox Christianity has maintained the Faith “once for all delivered to the saints.”
(Adapted from a from the Essay "What on Earth is the Orthodox Church" from Ancient Faith Press)
Coptic means "Egyptian"
The term “Coptic” is derived from the Greek “Aigyptos” meaning “Egyptian.“ So Coptic Orthodoxy is the Egyptian expression of Orthodox Christianity in the same way that there is Greek Orthodoxy or Russian Orthodoxy.
Orthodox means "right worship"
Orthodoxy is the original Church. It is the Church that was begun by the Apostles of Jesus Christ, and worships in continuity with the earliest Church.
Christianity first began in Egypt after the preaching of St Mark the Apostle in 43 AD.
Orthodoxy is original Christianity
Orthodoxy is not a denomination of Christianity, in that it was not a "new" or "off-shoot" Church such as the numerous Protestant Churches. Rather it is pre-denominational in that it existed before the splits of Christianity.
THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
The Church describes itself as the "One Holy, Catholic, & Apostolic Church"
One=the unity of different ethnic expressions (i.e. Coptic, Russian, Armenian) as one Church
Holy=the Church is called to transform those of us who are imperfect and yet seek perfection
Catholic=literally meaning "universal" and so open to all races, from all walks of life
Apostolic =the Church maintains its direct continuity to the original Church that was created by Jesus Christ