Frequently Asked Questions
Just what is the Orthodox Church?
Although we are one of the major religious groups in the world, we often find that we are not well understood by members of other faiths. The points below represent our response to some of the questions about us:
We are Orthodox Christians
Many people confuse us with Orthodox Jews, but the similarity of names is pure coincidental. Actually, Orthodox as understood by Orthodox Christians means "proper worship" and "right faith."
Anyone can become an Orthodox Christian
Just accept Christ as Lord and savior, be Baptized and or confirmed. Converts are welcome in our parishes, and a large proportion of the services are conducted in English, some parishes have all English.
Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox are the same religion
The Orthodox Church is actually a family of churches under a local bishop which operate independently (autocephalos) of each other but are tied together by the same beliefs and practices. When a dispute arises among the sister churches an ecumenical council is called. The Orthodox Church recognizes 7 Ecumenical councils of the universal (catholic) Church. The decisions of the councils are binding on all Orthodox churches. The Orthodox Church is made up of 15 autocephalous Churches and 4 autonomous Churches.
We are a Church experiencing growth
Due to the religious revival in Eastern Europe. Our total membership is estimated at 250 million and rapidly increasing, due to the religious revival in Eastern Europe. Numerically we one of the fastest growing churches in America.
We have been active in the Ecumenical Movement
The Orthodox Church was a founding member of the World Council and National Council of Churches of Christ. As Orthodox, we feel we should do everything possible to promote Christian unity. At the same time, our adherence to Christian Tradition has sometimes made our participation difficult.
We are Catholic but not Roman Catholic
The word catholic comes from Greek word that means "according to the whole." We believe that we profess the Christian Faith in its fullness. We, therefore, are the orthodox catholic Church. The Latin Church (headed by Rome) was with us until 1054, and split from the catholic church primarily over increasing authority that the Pope of Rome tried to assume.
We are Evangelical, but not Protestant
The word Evangelical comes the biblical Greek word meaning "Gospel." We are very Gospel centered -- in fact, a Gospel Book is always kept on our Holy Altar Table. Each Sunday Divine Liturgy has hundreds of quotes from Scripture. But we are not Protestant, since we have never had a Reformation; our history goes back unbroken to the early Church found in the Book of Acts.
Our "Official Translation" of the Bible
There is no official translation of the bible in the English. The Orthodox Study bible is the New King James Version. An Old Testament version from the Septuagint is now in the process of being translated. For all matters of faith the Orthodox would only refer to the original Greek and Hebrew text of scriptures
We follow the Traditions of God, not of Men
The Holy Bible itself could be described as "Tradition written down." "Unwritten Tradition" has also been preserved in our Church, from the Apostles themselves, As St. Paul said "stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter." (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
We are Conservative, but not Fundamentalists
To properly interpret the Bible one must take the literal parts literally and the symbolic parts symbolically. Tradition is our guide for telling, which is which. Even the early Christians knew that Genesis and Revelation contain a lot of symbolic language.
Orthodox Church Buildings are Christian Temples
Like the early Christians, our religious practices are based on Old Testament sources, fulfilled in Christ. These include synagogue worship, ceremonial meals (like the Last Supper); and the ritual of the Temple. Early Christian worship, as described in Revelation chapters 4 & 5, includes vestments, incense, bowing down in prayer, etc.
Our Icons (holy Pictures) are not idols (see Iconography)
The words Icons and idols are both derived from Greek words with very different meanings. An idol is literally an image of God that is "dreamed up " by human beings. By contrast, the Bible calls Christ Himself the "Icon" or "image" of God seven times (see, Colossians 1:15 – 16)
Married men are ordained to the holy priesthood
Ever since New Testament times, most of our priests have had the choice to marry (See Titus 1:5-6). The title Priest comes from a German word, which is a shortened form of the Greek word "Presbyter" meaning "Elder." We call them "father" as a natural term of respect for an elder in the Christian family and because St. Paul call himself father of those he baptized. (See 1 Corinthians 4:15-16).
Our Sunday Services are called the Divine Liturgy
The word Liturgy means a public service done by a priest who leads his people in formal, "liturgical" worship. In New Testament Greek, Christ and St. Paul are each referred to as a "leitourgos" (Hebrews 8:1-2 & Romans 15:16). Our Liturgy is the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
You are welcome to attend Orthodox Services
Visitors are frequently seen at our churches and they are welcome to come and experience Orthodox Christian worship with us. To receive Holy Communion one must be a baptized and/or chrismated Orthodox Christian, but at the end of the Liturgy, everyone is invited to join the faithful to receive blessed bread from the priest in token of Christian fellowship.