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Religion Library: Christianity


Written by: Beth Davies-Stofka

Constantine the Roman Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the empire from Rome to the city of Constantinople in 330, the bishop of Constantinople became the most influential patriarch of the East. The patriarchates of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem came under Muslim rule in the 7th century, and the status and importance of those patriarchates weakened as Christianity became a minority religion in those regions.

Dispute resolution in the early Church was handled in one of two ways. The churches sought consensus from all bishops in gatherings called Church councils. As the western Roman Empire crumbled, and with it the political unity and stability of western Europe, the bishop of Rome was increasingly the focal point for political continuity. Eventually the pope became the ultimate authority for the Roman Catholic Church, the western branch of Christianity.  In contrast, the eastern Roman Empire continued for another thousand years, allowing the eastern Church to develop a less centralized form of hierarchical clerical organization. No single bishop in the Eastern Orthodox tradition possesses final authority over matters of Church belief and practice. To this day, only consensus achieved at a Church council has ultimate authority in the East. In the West, problems and abuses associated with the tightly centralized organization of clergy sparked the Protestant Reformation, leading to the establishment of separate churches, called denominations, with different leadership norms.Public Domain

Leadership styles in Christian churches today
Episcopal leadership
governed by bishops
Presbyter leadershipCongregational leadership
Roman Catholic
Eastern Orthodox
Other free churches
Emphasis on apostolic succession: bishops as inheritors of authority"Ruling elders" have authorityLocal churches are self-governing

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