Introducing the Orthodox Church


The Eastern Orthodox Church is characterised by its continuity with the Apostolic Church, and follows the faith and practices defined by the first seven Ecumenical Councils. Other councils are also accepted as reflecting the same original faith. The word "Orthodox" signifies both "right believing" and "right worshipping", and so the Orthodox Church recognises itself as the bearer of an uninterrupted living tradition of true faith lived out in worship.

Since World War I, millions of eastern Europeans were dispersed in various countries where Orthodoxy had previously not existed. The Russian revolution of 1917 AD, for instance, provoked a massive emigration, which included intellectuals, theologians and clergy. After World War II, a huge Greek emigration occurred in western Europe, South Africa, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

St Andrew's Theological College in Sydney, New South Wales, is the most significant educational institution of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia. Founded in 1986, the College enjoys full accreditation as a tertiary establishment and is a full member of the Sydney College of Divinity.

Biography - The Orthodox Church by T. Ware, The Greek Orthodox Church by P., Orthodoxy in Australia by H. Simmons Bratsiotis, Persons and Events by M. & J. Chryssavgis. 


For the Orthodox Christians, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity underlies all theology and spirituality. Salvation is personal and underlines particularity. Yet salvation is also communal and implies sharing; there is a uniqueness and wholeness in the human person, in humanity and in creation. It is also on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity that the conciliar and hierarchical structure of the Orthodox Church rests.

The mystery of the Trinity is revealed in the supreme act of love, the Incarnation of the divine "Word that became flesh", assuming and healing humanity and creation entirely.

Participation in the deified humanity of Jesus Christ is the ultimate goal of the Christian life, accomplished through the Holy Spirit. In the Sacraments and in the life of the Church, each person is called to theosis or deification. For "God became human in order that humanity might be divinised".

When expressing these beliefs, the Orthodox look for consistency with Scripture and Tradition, as manifested in the life of the Church and the early Church Fathers, but will search also for new formulations of this tradition. External criteria of truth are lacking; for Orthodox Christians seek the living experience of truth accessible in the communion of Saints. Thus they are reluctant to define matters of faith with too much precision, in the firm conviction that truth is never exhausted. The apophatic or negative approach safeguards the transcendence of God even while designating His immanence; it also affirms the uniqueness of each person - divine and human - that they may never be reduced to anything less than a mystery.

Biography - The Faith We Hold by Archbishop Paul of Finland, Deification of Man by G. Mantzaridis. 


The Orthodox Church experiences and expresses its theology in its Liturgy, which has in fact often accounted for the survival of the Church in times of turmoil. It was the liturgical dimension of the Church, for example, that encouraged and educated Orthodox faithful during the 400 years of Ottoman occupation of Byzantium (1453 - 1821), as well as, more recently, during persecutions in post-revolutionary Russia.

The Church is most authentically itself when it prays as a worshipping community. Hymns and music, incense and candles, gestures and prostrations, symbols and architecture, bread and wine and oil - all convey the content of the Christian faith in a variety of ways, appealing to each person in a tangible manner.

The chief characteristic of the Orthodox liturgical cycle is its emphasis on celebration and joy. There is a desire to capture the heavenly beauty and to reveal this in the services, which are generally much longer in duration than those to which Western Christians are accustomed.

Biography - For the Life of the World by A. Schmemann, Hymn of Entry by Fr Vasileios. 


Integral to the long history and tradition of the Orthodox Christian faith are the Icons, which further reflect the divine glory and beauty. The Incarnation of Christ implies that God became fully human and therefore accessible and describable. God is not only understood but, at the Incarnation, is looked upon and seen. An Orthodox Church is, therefore, filled with icons invariably depicting Christ or the Saints of the Church, and an Orthodox Christian kisses and assigns veneration to those depicted by them. Icons are never worshipped, and they are the Christian faith and history depicted in images and constitute part of the transfigured cosmos.

Biography - The Meaning of Icons by L. Ouspensky, The Essence of Orthodox Iconography by K. Kalokyris. 

Unity in diversity

The Orthodox Church today numbers around 250 million throughout the world. Geographically, its primary area of distribution lies in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Russia and along the coasts of the Mediterranean. It is composed of several Patriarchal, self-governing or "autocephalous" and autonomous Churches - a form of international federation, within which each Church retains its independence. However, all Orthodox Churches are united in the same faith and liturgy.

Today people tend to think of the Church as a vast, world-wide institution. Yet the concept of universality as expressed in the local community is a fundamental principle of Orthodox doctrine. Each local Eucharist gathering is related on the principle of identity.

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia lies within the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch at Constantinople (Istanbul) who is regarded throughout the Orthodox Church as "first among equals".

For the closer coordination and cooperation of the Orthodox in Australia, the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Churches in Australia (SCCOCA) was established under the chairmanship of Archbishop Stylianos in 1979.

The Great Schism of the eleventh century between Eastern and Western Christians - in fact the result of a gradual estrangement from earlier centuries - was the cause of strained relations, which have only in this century been relaxed with bilateral dialogues. For example, between Orthodox and Roman Catholics, and between Orthodox and Anglicans.

Orthodox greatly value their relationships with other Christian Churches and appreciate the need for fuller reconciliation anddialogue among Christians, so that the Gospel may be more effective in this world. Thus the Greek, Antiochian, Serbian and Romanian Orthodox Churches have long been members of the Australian Council of Churches, while some of their representatives have served as presidents of the Australia or other state Councils. Informal discussions and seminars have been held with other church bodies either occasionally or more regularly.

Biography - The Orthodox Church and Catholicism by Archbishop Stylianos of Australia, Anglican - Orthodox Dialogue by K. T. Ware and C. Davey (Ed). 

Further information

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese:

St Andrew's Greek Orthodox Theological College
242 Cleveland Street, REDFERN NSW 2016 Tel: (02) 9699 6145

Central Offices and Bookstore
242 Cleveland Street, REDFERN NSW 2016 Tel: (02) 9698 5066

Victoria and Tasmania
221 Dorcas Street, Sth MELBOURNE VIC 3205 Tel: (03) 9696 2488

South Australia and the Northern Territory
533 Anzac Hwy, GLENELG SA 5045 Tel: (08) 8295 3866

36 Browning St, Sth Brisbane Qld 4101 Tel: (07) 3397 4786

Western Australia
390 Charles St, NORTH PERTH, W.A. 6006 (PO Box 254, NORTHBRIDGE, W.A. 6865) Tel: (08) 9242 3466 and (08) 9201 9655; Fax: (08) 9201 9644

Return to homepage (framed) | Return to homepage (no frames) | Return to home page