For a thousand years, from AD37-45 to AD1054-66, the people living in the British Isles and western Europe believed and worshipped God as an integral part of the undivided Orthodox Catholic Church. That Church was governed world wide by five Patriarchs, those of Constantinople (the Ecumenical Patriarch), Rome, Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria. The Church in the British Isles was a local expression of the common Orthodox Christian Faith held throughout the world. The great saints of the British Isles such as Saint Aidan, Saint David, Saint Patrick, Saint Alban, Saint Chad, Saint Cuthbert, Saint Boniface, Saint Dunstan etc., were all members of that Orthodox Catholic Church in the British Isles which continued for a thousand years.
The initial split in the world wide Church occurred just after the beginning of the second millennium, when the Patriarch of Rome and his people parted from the majority of the Church led by the Ecumenical Patriarch and the other three Patriarchs. Throughout the second millennium, the church adhering to the Pope (Patriarch) of Rome, continued to split and further split until today there are some ten thousand separate groups or churches.
The original Church, the undivided Orthodox Catholic Church, continues today, still led by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and the Patriarchs of Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria, joined by the Patriarchs of Moscow, Georgia, Belgrade and Bucharest. During the past millennium, the Church has expanded, with Russia and the Slavic Churches having the largest number of Orthodox people in the world today. The Church founded by Christ and spread by His Apostles and Evangelists - the Orthodox Church - numbers hundreds of millions of members today, and is rapidly expanding on all the continents and especially in the western countries.



Eastern but Western
Time Magazine, Friday, May. 01, 1964

If, by chance, a Roman Catholic walked into Sunday worship at the Church of the Divine Wisdom in Mount Vernon, N.Y., he would feel right at home. The priest at the altar would be wearing alb, chasuble, maniple and stole, the familiar Eucharistic vestments of the Western church; the liturgy he celebrated, except for the use of English instead of Latin, would be almost identical with the Roman Mass. But the worshippers at the church are not Roman Catholics, or even High-Church Anglicans; they are members of the little-known Western Rite of the Orthodox Church.
Keeping the Mass. The Western Rite is an Orthodox attempt to restore the cultural balance of East and West that existed in their church before Rome —as the East believes — fell away into schism in 1054. In doctrine, Western Orthodox believers follow the bearded patriarchs of Constantinople, Antioch and Moscow, but their way of worship is the Mass rather than the lengthy Divine Liturgies of the East. The Western Rite missal has been purged of Roman "heresies," such as supererogation, the belief that man can acquire grace through the merits of saints as well as through Christ's redemption. Communion is given in the form of bread and wine instead of bread alone. The Nicene Creed is recited without a major theological cause of the schism, the filioque clause, thereby adhering to Orthodox teaching that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone.
Founder of the Western Rite was the Rev. Joseph Overbeck, a scholarly German priest who converted to Orthodoxy in 1865. Overbeck had only a handful of followers, but he prepared a revision of the Roman missal and outlined a theological defense of the Western Rite idea that eventually convinced Orthodox church leaders. In 1926, the Orthodox Church of Poland accepted the allegiance of some Polish Catholics, who were allowed to keep the Mass and most of their liturgical customs. In the U.S., most of the Western Rite Orthodox belong to the Syrian Antiochian Archdiocese, which drew up rules in 1958 for a Christian who wanted to join the church.
More than Tribal. Western Orthodoxy has been slow to catch on: there are only 3,000 Western Rite Orthodox in about 50 scattered parishes around the world. Even many Eastern Orthodox regard their Western Rite brethren as second-class Christians. But the Rev. William Schneirla, a top-ranking Orthodox theologian from St. Vladimir's Seminary in New York, argues that the Western Rite "is in some respects the most important recent enterprise of Orthodoxy." It gives force to Orthodoxy's claim to be a truly ecumenical church rather than a "tribal religion" and provides "a new instrument for the reawakening missionary thrust of Orthodoxy." Others believe that the new church may help preserve the faith for future generations of U.S. Orthodox who find themselves unsympathetic to the Old World culture and mentality of their fathers.

copyright Time Inc.