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True Orthodoxy, or Genuine Orthodoxy (Greek: Ἐκκλησία Γνησίων Ὀρθοδόξων Χριστιανῶν, "Church of True Orthodox Christians"; Russian: Истинно-Православная Церковь, "True Orthodox Church"), often pejoratively referred to as "Zealotry", is a movement within Eastern Orthodox Christianity that has been separated from the mainstream Eastern Orthodox Church over issues of ecumenism and calendar reform since the 1920s.
Those who consider themselves a part of this movement are a minority of those who consider themselves to be Eastern Orthodox Christians, but True Orthodox writers have argued that in missionary areas such as the United States, Orthodox membership numbers may be overstated, with the comparative number of True Orthodox as up to 15% of the Orthodox population. The number of official Orthodox in America is approximately 415,000, whereas True Orthodox may comprise up to 40,000 Americans combined. In Russia, it has been said by some clergymen that up to a million Russians may be True Orthodox of different jurisdictions, though the Greek Old Calendarists and True Orthodox Russians are often cited at 1.7-2 million together.
Most True Orthodox Christians hold to a reading of history from the age of the Apostles to the 1920s virtually identical to that of the mainstream Orthodox Church. True Orthodox Christians added the additional word "True" to distinguish themselves from those whom they believe to have abandoned Orthodox doctrine after this period. (The term orthodoxy, from Greek ὀρθοδοξία, orthodoxia, already means "correct belief" or "right opinion".)
Most True Orthodox historians agree that the rise of the Ecumenical movement manifested through the change of the church calendar in the 1920s throughout the Orthodox world, as well as the 1927 capitulation of Metropolitan Sergius (Stragadorsky) to the Soviet authorities marked the formative period for True Orthodoxy, where those Orthodox who either would not go along with changes to the calendar or were disobedient to the civil authorities began to organize against the official church in earnest and create parallel hierarchies. While the early period in the history of True Orthodoxy marked a "grey area" in terms of how to regard those who went along with the innovation, today most True Orthodox disregard "World Orthodoxy"—at least the hierarchy—as part of the church at all.
Because of the late departure of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) into union with the Moscow Patriarchate with the Act of Canonical Communion with the Moscow Patriarchate, some jurisdictions glorify saints who are still well-regarded among mainstream Orthodox, such as St John of Shanghai and San Francisco (†1966) and St Philaret of New York (†1985).
Like mainstream Eastern Orthodox Christians, True Orthodox remain Chalcedonian in their Christology and accept the doctrinal authority of the Church's Seven Ecumenical Councils. However, they strongly reject the ecumenical movement and consider most ecumenical dialogues, such as those with the non-Chalcedonians and Roman Catholics, to be invalid and unacceptable, citing canonical prohibitions against joint prayer.
Nevertheless, True Orthodox Churches are considered to have certain characteristic views and positions distinct from the Eastern Orthodox Church:
- They reject the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Moscow Patriarchate, and those Churches in communion with them, accusing them of heresy and placing themselves under bishops who do the same.
- They use the Old Julian liturgical calendar exclusively and denounce the Revised Julian calendar as a wayward, Latinising innovation.
Among those satisfying these two characteristics, there is the historically disputed requirement that they consider the sacraments of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate to be invalid and ineffectual for salvation. For the most part, True Orthodox repudiate such communion under a rejection of ecumenism and Sergianism (Named for Metropolitan Sergius) as heresies, and many Churches have added those alleged heresies to the anathemas on the Sunday of Orthodoxy.
There is less dispute on the issue of the rejection of official mysteries in the present day after the change of the Cyprianites (who openly rejected this principle), however, historically this issue has been a source of disagreement. The issue of whether the EP and MP are graceless or simply viewed as incorrect persists to the present day in differences in baptism and chrismation policies (official and unofficial) among the so-called True Orthodox Churches.
As Eastern Orthodox Christianity is both collegial and local in structure, there is no single organization called the "True Orthodox Church" nor is there official recognition among the "True Orthodox" as to who is properly included among them. While some unions have taken place even up to the present, the majority of True Orthodox are only secondarily concerned with reunion as opposed to preservation of Eastern Orthodox teaching.
Organisations that are usually included in the True Orthodoxy are:
- Greek Old Calendarists
- Old Calendar Bulgarian Orthodox Church
- Old Calendarist Romanian Orthodox Church
- Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church
- Russian True Orthodox Church (also referred as the Catacomb Church)
- Russian True Orthodox Church (Lazar Zhurbenko)
- Churches descending from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
- Serbian True Orthodox Church
Inter-church relations and intercommunion
Many True Orthodox synods do not publish information concerning other synods, citing limited interest outside of their locality. Some are open to dialogue, whereas some hierarchies are more insular and prefer to keep to themselves. For example, the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC) through the late Metropolitan Valentine, stated informally that they no longer actively seek to join other True Orthodox churches, but would not refuse incoming dialogue.
A number of unions, however, between different True Orthodox bodies have taken place for limited periods of time in recent decades, even to the present. The most notable of these was the reunion between the Greek Old Calendarists and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (1971–85) and the current union of the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians, ROCOR under Metropolitan Agafangel (Pashkovsky), and the Old Calendar Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
- Ancient Church of the East — A Syrian 'Nestorian' Christian sect founded in 1968 after a split from the Assyrian Church of the East for similar reasons
- Christian fundamentalism
- Old Believers — A collective group of independent Russian Orthodox Christians who maintain the liturgical and ritual practices of the Eastern Orthodox Church as they existed prior to the reforms of Patriarch Nikon of Moscow between 1652 and 1666
- Beoković, Jelena (1 May 2010). "Ko su ziloti, pravoslavni fundamentalisti" [Who are Zealots, Orthodox Fundamentalists]. Politika. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
- "THE PELAGIAN ROOTS OF SERGIANISM". Orthodoxchristianbooks.com. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
- "Nathanael Kapner's 2006 "Church News" interview with Metropolitan Valentine of Suzdal and Vladimir". Roac.org. Retrieved 27 October 2017.