While the Orthodox Church is a single Faith and single Tradition, it has different cultural expressions. Thus, the Greek Orthodox Church is Eastern Orthodoxy as it flowered and developed in Greece and the surrounding areas. The Russian Orthodox Church is precisely the same Eastern Orthodoxy, but as it developed in Russia. There are many different expressions of Holy Orthodoxy–different, yet same. Each is guided by a Bishop and those Bishops are in communion and communication with each other. This communal (or “concilliar”) leadership style assures the faithfulness of each expression of Eastern Orthodoxy as well as the faithfulness to Jesus Christ’s promise that “where two or three are gathered, I will be in the midst of them” (Matt 18:20).
The Antiochian Orthodox Church, based in Damascus, Syria and serving a predominantly Arab culture, is one of these cultural expressions of Eastern Orthodoxy. It is also one of the most ancient centers of Christianity. Antioch, north of Jerusalem along the Mediterranean coast, is the place where Jesus’ disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). It is also the church that sent out the first missionaries, Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:2). This is the same church that has remained faithful to Christ since it’s founding by early Christians fleeing persecution in Jerusalem shortly after Jesus Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension.
Organizationally, Eastern Orthodoxy in America still reflects the fact that the Orthodox Church was an immigrant Church. Because there was no set leadership in the Americas in the early days of Orthodoxy, Arab immigrants sought leadership from Syria; Greek immigrants sought leadership from Greece; Russian immigrants sought leadership from Russia. As a result, to this day, there are over a dozen different jurisdictions within Orthodoxy in the Americas.
Metropolitan Joseph, the leader of the Self-Ruled Antiochian Christian Archdiocese of North America, has been one of the visionary leaders seeking to establish a single Orthodox voice in North America. Increasingly North American Orthodoxy is becoming culturally unified and it is the hope and prayer of Orthodox Christians, no matter their jurisdiction, that soon we will be united as a single jurisdiction, to reflect the single faith we all share.