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Religion Library: Eastern Orthodoxy

Community Organization

Written by: Beth Davies-Stofka

In the mystical approach typical of Eastern Orthodoxy, the church is understood as an icon of God, the Holy Trinity. The Trinity is described as a mystical indwelling of three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—in one God, a wonderful divine mystery of unity in diversity. The church embodies this mystery, in which each Christian is a distinctly independent individual, yet the aggregate community of all Christians is united as one, a communion comprised of all Christians, past, present, and future. Participation in this "communion of saints" gives the Christian insight into the mystery of the Trinity.

The Trinitarian doctrine of the church underlines the Orthodox emphasis on the importance of church councils. Because all Christians are one in the body of Christ, ultimate decisions about matters of faith and practice can only properly be made by a gathering of the representatives of all the churches. No one bishop has more authority than another in the body of Christ, but when all are gathered together, as they were on the day of Pentecost, then they are able to freely reach common agreement through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Study Questions:
1.     Describe the role of the spirit of Pentecost within the church’s community organization.
2.     Is there a hierarchy of power within the church’s leadership? How?
3.     What is the role of location in determining community structure?
4.     How does the Trinitarian doctrine influence community organization?


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