The Eastern Orthodox Churches


The nominal head of the Eastern Orthodox Churches is the Patriarch of Constantinople. However, he is only first among equals and has no real authority over Churches other than his own.

There are 15 'autocephalous Churches', listed in order of precedence.

Autocephaly (literally "self-headed") is the status of a church within the Orthodox Church whose primatial bishop does not report to any higher-ranking bishop. When an ecumenical council or a high-ranking bishop, such as a patriarch or other primate, releases an ecclesiastical province from the authority of that bishop while the newly independent church remains in full communion with the hierarchy to which it then ceases to belong, the council or primate is granting autocephaly. Historically, however, autocephaly is not always obtained in such a manner.

Church of Constantinople (ancient)
Church of Alexandria (ancient)
Church of Antioch (ancient)
Church of Jerusalem (ancient)
Church of Russia (established in 1589)
Church of Serbia (1219)
Church of Romania (1925)
Church of Bulgaria (927)
Church of Georgia (466)
Church of Cyprus (434)
Church of Greece (1850)
Church of Poland (1924)
Church of Albania (1937)
Church of Czech and Slovak lands (1951)
The Orthodox Church in America (1970)


The Orthodox communion also includes a number of 'autonomous Churches'.

Autonomous (literally, "self-ruled") is the status of a church within the Orthodox Church whose primatial bishop is confirmed by one of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches. In all other respects, an autonomous church is entirely self-governing.

Church of Sinai
Church of Finland
Church of Estonia (autonomy recognized by Constantinople but not Moscow)
Church of Japan (autonomy recognized by Moscow but not Constantinople)
Church of China (virtually non-existent, autonomy recognized by Moscow but not Constantinople)
Church of Ukraine (autonomy recognized by Moscow but not Constantinople)
Archdiocese of Ohrid (autonomy recognized only by Serbia)


These churches were formerly autocephalous or autonomous, no longer Orthodox, or in some cases no longer exist.

Church of Carthage
Church of Latvia
Church of Lithuania
Church of Rome (See Great Schism)
Unrecognized independent churches


The following churches are variously unrecognized by the mainstream churches as independent and/or canonical.

Church of Ukraine (Kiev Patriarchate)
Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church
Orthodox Church of France
Macedonian Orthodox Church
Montenegrin Orthodox Church
Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church