For the first time in history, an evangelical denomination has gained official approval to become part of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The 1,800-member Evangelical Orthodox Church (EOC) will soon join the historic Antiochian Orthodox Church (AOC).
The merger process began in September, when EOC Presiding Bishop Peter Gillquist and other denominational leaders met with AOC officials, including Metropolitan Philip Saliba, the church’s leader in the United States. After the merger talks, the EOC decided to accept the AOC’S entrance requirements.
“We’re delighted that our days of independence are ending,” Gillquist said, “and we are entering into an accountability to Christ through the historic church.… We are humbled by the fact that in entering the church we will be in communion with the faith and practice of the New Testament church, and one-quarter of all Christendom.”
Terms Of Unity
To be received into the Orthodox church, the EOC was required to agree to terms presented in September by Metropolitan Philip. Included in the terms:
- The reorganization of existing EOC communities into parishes of the AOC.
- The reception of EOC members through a rite of confirmation.
- The ordination of the EOC leadership as Orthodox deacons and priests.
- The change in status of the EOC’S synod of bishops into a council of presbyters. (The Orthodox church does not allow its bishops to be married.)
- The modification of the EOC’S style of worship to conform to the general liturgical practices of the AOC.
- The recognition of the EOC’S agencies, such as its press and school of theology, as official branches of the Orthodox church. The EOC will be renamed the Antiochian Evangelical Orthodox Mission, becoming an official ministry of the AOC.
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