The term Oriental Orthodox refers to the churches of Eastern Orthodox traditions that keep the faith of only the first three ecumenical councils — the First Council of Nicaea, the First Council of Constantinople and the Council of Ephesus — and rejected the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Chalcedon. Hence, these Churches are also called Old Oriental Churches. Thus, despite potentially confusing nomenclature, Oriental Orthodox churches are distinct from the churches that collectively refer to themselves as Eastern Orthodox.
The Oriental Orthodox churches resulted from a schism with the remainder of Christianity in the 5th century. The separation resulted in part from the Oriental Orthodox churches' refusal to accept the Christological dogmas of the Council of Chalcedon, which held that Jesus has two natures — one divine and one human, although these are inseparable and only act as one hypostasis. To the hierarchs who would lead the Oriental Orthodox, this was tantamount to accepting Nestorianism. In response, they advocated a formula that stressed unity of the Incarnation over all other considerations. The Oriental Orthodox churches are therefore often called Monophysite churches, although they reject this label, which is associated with Eutychian Monophysitism, preferring the term "non-Chalcedonian" or "Miaphysite" churches. Oriental Orthodox churches reject the Monophysite teachings of Eutychus and the Dyophysite teachings of Nestorius.
In the 20th century, the Chalcedonian schism is not seen with the same relevance any more, and from several meetings between the Roman Catholic Pope John Paul II and Patriarchs of the Oriental Orthodox churches, reconciling declarations have begun to emerge.
The confusions and schisms that occurred between their Churches in the later centuries, they realize today, in no way affect or touch the substance of their faith, since these arose only because of differences in terminology and culture and in the various formulae adopted by different theological schools to express the same matter. Accordingly, we find today no real basis for the sad divisions and schisms that subsequently arose between us concerning the doctrine of Incarnation. In words and life we confess the true doctrine concerning Christ our Lord, notwithstanding the differences in interpretation of such a doctrine which arose at the time of the Council of Chalcedon. From the common declaration of Pope John Paul II and HH Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, June 23, 1984
Oriental Orthodox Communion
The Oriental Orthodox Communion is a group of churches within Oriental Orthodoxy which are in "full communion" with each other. The communion includes:
- The Armenian Apostolic Church
- The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria
- The Ethiopian Orthodox Church (Tewahedo Church)
- The Eritrean Orthodox Church (Tewahido Church)
- The Indian Orthodox Church
- The Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch (also known as the Syrian Orthodox Church)
Assyrian Church of the East
The Assyrian Church of the East is sometimes considered an Oriental Orthodox Church, although they left the Catholic and Apostolic Church in reaction against the Council of Ephesus 20 years earlier and revere Saints anathematized by the previously mentioned Churches. In addition, they accept a Nestorian or Nestorian-like Christology that is categorically rejected by the Oriental Orthodox Communion.
- Website on the unity between Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches
- Common declaration of Pope John Paul II and HH Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
- Saint Takla Haymanot Coptic Orthodox Church - Alexandria - Egypt)
- St. Mary's Orthodox Syrian Church, Niranam (A Parish of Malankara Orthodox Church, founded by Apostle Thomas, in AD 54)
- The Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)
- Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul
- Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem
- An unofficial site of Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church