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What is the Antiochian Orthodox Church?

Antiochian Orthodox Church
Question: "What is the Antiochian Orthodox Church?"

The Antiochian Orthodox Church, more formally called the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, is a self-governing church within Eastern Orthodoxy. The Antiochian Orthodox Church is different from the Syriac Orthodox Church (also called the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East), which is part of Oriental Orthodoxy.

Being independent, the Antiochian Orthodox Church has its own patriarch (religious overseer) and patriarchate (ecclesiastical jurisdiction). The Antiochian Orthodox Church is headquartered in Damascus, Syria, although its former base was in Antioch. Dioceses outside of Syria are located in Australia, Brazil, Iran, Lebanon, Turkey, the U.S., and elsewhere (the U.S. archdiocese is self-ruled). According to the World Council of Churches, the Antiochian Orthodox Church has 4.3 million members worldwide.

The Antiochian Orthodox Church traces its beginnings to Acts 11:26: “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” The Antiochian Orthodox Church claims that the apostle Peter founded their church in AD 34 and that Paul joined Peter soon thereafter in Antioch. The Antiochian Orthodox Church also points to Acts 6:5, which mentions “Nicolas from Antioch” as one of the first seven deacons, as an indicator of the importance of the Antioch church in the first century. The Antiochian Orthodox Church claims an unbroken line of apostolically appointed bishops from Peter’s time to now.

The doctrine and practice of the Antiochian Orthodox Church line up with those of other churches within Eastern Orthodoxy. The Antiochian Orthodox Church follows the Byzantine liturgy, although a Western or Latin Rite movement exists within the church. The Antiochian Orthodox Church observes seven sacraments, venerates icons, prays to Mary, the “Mother of God,” and other saints, offers prayers for the dead, and teaches a salvation based on works (such as keeping the sacraments). These teachings are opposed to biblical doctrine. Biblical prayer is to be directed to God alone, and the Bible teaches that salvation is by grace through faith, apart from human works (Ephesians 2:8–9). The Orthodox doctrine of salvation is “another” gospel that places the emphasis on our works rather than Christ’s (see Galatians 1:6–9).

Recommended Resource: Eastern Orthodox Christianity, 2d ed.: A Western Perspective by Daniel B. Clendenin

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