The Orthodox Church is a family of Local Churches, just like 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 fourteen 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 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 as revealed, particularly through Church Councils and the saints.
Below you will find details of the Orthodox Churches and their approximate sizes, totalling in all over 218 million members with 843 active bishops. However, this does not including the 52 titular bishops of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, where the term bishop or metropolitan is particularly often used as an honorific award and the 14 bishops of the 90,000-strong North American (‘OCA’) group under the Russian Orthodox Church, which is not universally recognized. This brings the real total to 907.
1. The Russian Orthodox Church 164,000,000
Also known as the Patriarchate of Moscow, this accounts for 75% of all Orthodox and has 368 bishops. (Another 14 bishops are to be found in the dependent North American group known as the OCA). It cares for Orthodox living in the canonical Russian Orthodox territory, spread over one fifth of the planet (the former Soviet Union except for Georgia, plus China and Japan) and peopled by 62 nationalities. These territories include the Russian Federation, the Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Transcarpathia (the main part of Carpatho-Russia), Kazakhstan, Central Asia and the Baltic Republics, such as Latvia (250,000). The Russian Church also includes the self-governing multinational Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (400,000 worldwide, mainly in the Americas and Australia as well as parts of Western Europe), the Japanese Orthodox Church and the tiny Chinese Orthodox Church.
2. The Romanian Orthodox Church 18,800,000
Also known as the Patriarchate of Bucharest, it has 53 bishops. Apart from in Romania, there are also many Romanian parishes in the Diaspora, especially in Western Europe.
3. The Greek Orthodox Church 10,000,000
Under the Archbishop of Athens, this Church with 101 bishops cares for all Orthodox in Greece.
- The Serbian Orthodox Church 9,000,000
The canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Belgrade covers Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Croatia and Slovenia and the Church has 44 bishops. There are also many Serbian parishes in the worldwide Serbian Diaspora.
- The Bulgarian Orthodox Church 4,500,000
The Patriarchate of Sofia covers Bulgaria, has 15 bishops and a few churches in the Diaspora.
- The Georgian Orthodox Church 3,500,000
The Patriarchate of Tbilisi covers Georgia and a very small Georgian Diaspora. It has 37 bishops.
- The Patriarchate of Constantinople 3,400,000
This includes Greek Orthodox in Istanbul (about 1,000), those on Greek islands such as Crete and Rhodes (700,000), and above all the Greek Diaspora in the Americas, Western Europe and Australia. There are also twenty-four autonomous parishes in Finland and small groups of other Non-Greek Orthodox, mainly Ukrainian, elsewhere. It has 73 active bishops and 52 titular bishops, 125 in all.
- The Patriarchate of Antioch 1,800,000
The canonical territory of the Arab Patriarch, who lives in Damascus, includes Syria, the Lebanon and Iraq. There are 44 bishops and also many parishes in the Diaspora, including some 10,000 ex-Protestants in the USA.
- The Patriarchate of Alexandria 1,400,000
Although for historical reasons its Patriarch is a Greek and his appointment is in the care of the Greek government, this Patriarchate is in Egypt. It also cares for St Catherine’s Monastery on Mt Sinai, but the vast bulk of its faithful are Africans, spread over 54 African countries. It has 31 bishops.
- The Orthodox Church of Cyprus 700,000
Under an Archbishop, this Church cares for all Greek Orthodox in Cyprus and has 17 bishops.
- The Polish Orthodox Church 600,000
Under the Metropolitan of Warsaw, this Church cares for Orthodox of all origins who live mainly in eastern Poland. It has 12 bishops.
- The Albanian Orthodox Church 200,000
Under the Archbishop of Tirana, this Church cares for Orthodox in southern Albania, most of whom are of Greek origin. It has 6 bishops.
13. The Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia 170,000
Led by a Metropolitan, this Church cares for Carpatho-Russian, Slovak and Czech Orthodox, as well as large numbers of recent Ukrainian Orthodox immigrants to Slovakia and the Czech Lands. It has 6 bishops.
- The Patriarchate of Jerusalem 130,000
Although its Patriarch is a Greek and his appointment and that of other bishops is in the care of the Greek government, this Patriarchate’ flock consists mainly of Palestinian Orthodox in Palestine and the Jordan. It has 20 bishops.