- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Why is the Orthodox Church ethnic? — M.F.
The Orthodox Church is not ethnic. However, it is true that a complex history in America has given the impression that it is for certain ethnic groups. This is far from the truth.
There are many who have never heard of the Orthodox Christian Church. Those who think of it as a place where Greeks or Russians go. It’s eastern, thus too foreign. This is a gross over simplification. To understand we must review history.
Christ’s saving work occurred in Israel, and thus, the church began in the east. All the ancient Orthodox Churches are the direct descendants and heirs of the ancient Christian gatherings.
The Apostles took the orthodox apostolic faith to the Mediterranean region. Specifically, Paul went to Greece. Soon the Greek people (along with many other cultures) became so thoroughly converted to the orthodox faith that to be Greek was to be Christian. The same in Russia and other places. The Apostles established “episcopos or overseers,” that is,”Bishops.” Eventually, the bishops of these ancient churches became known as Patriarchs, and thus these ancient churches became known as Patriarchates. All but one of the five ancient Patriarchates were in the east.
In order to distinguish themselves from schismatic or heretical groups these ancient eastern orthodox groups began to call themselves “Orthodox ecclesia” or “Orthodox Church.” Translated this means, “the gathering of those continuing in the original/right faith.”
It is true that there are whole nations that have considered themselves Orthodox. When these various ethnic groups came to America they brought their faith with them and eventually the Greeks, Russians, Syrians, Egyptians, Serbians, Romanians, etc. established their respective Orthodox Churches on American soil. In that these groups also are commanded to “make disciples of all nations.” Matt. 28:19, in the latter part of the 20th century they began missionary efforts to Americans.
Because of the success of the Orthodox mission in America, many Americans are now meeting, for the first time, the ancient Orthodox Christian Faith. Any Orthodox church invites anyone to come and to embrace the ancient faith and even become Orthodox if one is so moved.