Christianity has many branches. There are certain beliefs that tie all of us together regardless of the name on the sign. There are certain lack of beliefs that will keep some out of heaven no matter what it says on the sign.
Most of us are familiar with the many denominations of the Protestant world: Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc. We are aware of the Roman Catholic church. A growing part of the mix in the United States is a group that falls under the generic label of Orthodox. Often they have a nationalistic adjective in front of the title, such as Greek Orthodox or Armenian Orthodox.
Who are these Orthodox?
A little church history is in order. The Christian church emerged and grew as a pariah in the Roman Empire. Christians were fair game. They had no rights and were persecuted in various ways, but the church grew anyway. That changed in 313 when Constantine issued the Edict of Milan which made Christianity legal. As the churches came out of the closet and began to include increasing numbers of people who had not risked their lives to believe, politics and cultural influences had a growing influence in the church. As the Eastern Roman Empire began to differ from the Western Roman Empire the local churches went along. The Eastern Church became more Greek, the Western Church more Latin.
At the birth of Mohammed, 670, there were a number of cities that boasted a strong Christian presence. Rome was one. It was also the traditional center of the Roman Empire which gave it extra prestige. Roman Catholics seem to believe that it was always the center of the church but the Bishop of Rome was really one of several influential Bishops. Others were found in cities like Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria. Islam began to change the map in 630 when Mohammed conquered Mecca and the armies of Islam began to spread the faith. The areas overwhelmed first contained some of the strongest Christian centers. This decimated the churches. Consider this:
“The author talks about how tolerant the early Muslims were but gives facts that contradict: About Algeria and Tunisia, ‘In the sixth century, some five hundred bishops operated in this region; by the eighth century, it was hard to find any.’ What happened in the 7th century? The Muslim conquest.” (Jenkins, Philip. The Lost History of Christianity, New York: Harper One, 2008, p. 34)One by one the Christian centers were eliminated until only Rome and Constantinople remained. They both claimed to be the one true church. In 1054 the leaders of the two branches, the Orthodox Patriarch and the Roman Catholic Pope, excommunicated each other. They have been separated ever since. They are in constant talks but so far nothing has come of it. In 1453 the Muslims conquered Constantinople and the Pope was the last man standing.
The Orthodox have survived but the last hundred years have seen an increase in these Christians fleeing Muslim countries because of increased persecution. Christians are fair game in countries from Egypt to Indonesia.
So embrace them as part of the family of God. They have some differences but they are with us on the basics. If Baptists and Wesleyans can get along, so can the Orthodox.
While you are at it, work on the Baptists and the Wesleyans getting along. Set a good example.
homo unius libri