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Membership Figures for the Orthodox Churches

The Orthodox Church remains a family of Local Churches, as were the Churches of the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Romans, the Thessalonians, the Colossians etc, as described in the letters written to them by the holy Apostle Paul. Each of the fifteen ‘Autocephalous’ (= Independent) Local Orthodox Churches has a main administrative figure, a chief bishop known as a Patriarch, or in the case of smaller Churches, a Metropolitan or Archbishop. However, the Orthodox Church as a whole has no earthly head, because the head of the Orthodox Church is our Lord Jesus Christ. His authority is expressed in the Orthodox Church through the Holy Spirit and is revealed to us, particularly through Church Councils.

It is difficult to obtain accurate statistics for numbers of Orthodox Christians worldwide. Below we provide estimates for the memberships of the different Local Orthodox Churches. It will be found that present membership comes to a rounded total for the whole Orthodox Church of nearly 217,000,000. Although this is far from the very high figures of 300,000,000 quoted by some and the very low figures of 100,000,000 quoted by others, we believe it to be fairly accurate. If any readers have access to more verifiable statistics, we would be pleased to adjust the figures below accordingly. The Local Orthodox Churches are listed in order of size.

1. The Russian Orthodox Church 164,001,000.

Also known as the Patriarchate of Moscow, this cares for Orthodox living in the canonical Russian Orthodox territories, which are spread over one sixth of the planet and are populated by over fifty nationalities. These multilingual territories include the Russian Federation, the Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Transcarpathia (the main part of Carpatho-Russia or Ruthenia), the Central Asian Republics and the Baltic Republics. The Russian Church also includes the multinational, self-governing Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (400,000 worldwide), the Autonomous Japanese Orthodox Church (25,000), the Autonomous Chinese Orthodox Church and some 200 other parishes and missions in the Orthodox ‘Diaspora’, that is, mainly in Western Europe, the Americas and Australia and also a mission in Thailand.

2. The Romanian Orthodox Church 18,800,000

Also known as the Patriarchate of Bucharest. Apart from Romania, there are also large numbers of Romanian parishes in the Diaspora, especially in Western Europe.

3. The Greek Orthodox Church 10,000,000

Under the Archbishop of Athens, this Church cares for all Orthodox in Greece.

4. The Serbian Orthodox Church 8,000,000

The canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Belgrade covers Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Croatia and Slovenia. There are also many Serbian parishes in the Diaspora.

5. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church 6,500,000

The Patriarchate of Sofia covers Bulgaria and also has a few parishes in the Diaspora.

6. The Georgian Orthodox Church 3,500,000

The Patriarchate of Tbilisi covers Georgia and a very small Georgian Diaspora.

7. The Patriarchate of Constantinople 2,800,000

This includes Greek Orthodox in Istanbul (about 1,000), those on Greek islands such as Crete and Rhodes, and above all the Greek Diaspora in the Americas, Western Europe and Australia. There also twenty-four autonomous parishes in Finland. It has also adopted a number of small groups of dissident Orthodox who are at present in canonical dispute with their Russian Mother-Church for political or nationalist reasons. These include some Diaspora Ukrainians, a small number of Estonians and some 10,000 Orthodox mainly of Russian origin, based in Paris but scattered over several countries in Western Europe.

8. The Patriarchate of Alexandria 1,500,000

Although for historical reasons its Patriarch is a Greek and his appointment is in the care of the Greek government, this Patriarchate is based in Egypt. It also cares for St Catherine’s Monastery on Mt Sinai (an Autonomous Church), but the vast bulk of its faithful are black Africans all over Africa, especially in East Africa.

9. The Patriarchate of Antioch 900,000

The canonical territory of the Arab Patriarch, who lives in Damascus, includes Syria, the Lebanon and Iraq. There are also parishes in parts of the Diaspora, including ex-Protestant groups, numbering several thousand in the USA and 300 in England.

10. The Orthodox Church of Cyprus 650,000

Under an Archbishop, this Church cares for all Greek Orthodox in Cyprus.

11. The Polish Orthodox Church 600,000

Under the Metropolitan of Warsaw, this Church cares for Orthodox of all origins living mainly in eastern Poland.

12. The Albanian Orthodox Church 300,000

Under the Archbishop of Tirana, this Church cares for Orthodox in Albania.

13. The Patriarchate of Jerusalem 130,000

Although its Patriarch is a Greek and his appointment is in the care of the Greek government, this Patriarchate cares for Arab Orthodox in Palestine, Israel and the Jordan.

14. The Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia 110,000

Under a Metropolitan, this Church cares for Carpatho-Russian, Slovak and Czech Orthodox, as well as large numbers of Ukrainian Orthodox immigrants to Slovakia and the Czech Lands.

15. The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) 100,000

Formerly a dissident part of the Russian Orthodox Church in North America, this Church is not recognised as canonical by all the Local Orthodox Churches.

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