FAQ Category: Middle East Christian Traditions

Evangelical Churches

Protestant churches are known as evangelical in the Middle East, even those that Americans traditionally think of as mainline Protestant. Most evangelical churches were established in the Middle East by European and American missionaries during the 19th century. Some churches consist primarily of ingenious Arab-speaking Christians; others are attended mainly by expatriates from Europe, India, and the Americas. The largest evangelical churches are the Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land, the National Evangelical Union of Lebanon, the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, and the Evangelical Synod of the Nile.  

The Catholic Church

Catholic Christians recognize the Pope in Rome as the universal head of the Church. However, there is a lot of diversity in the worship practices within the Catholic Church. Not all Catholics use the same liturgy for mass. In the Middle East, Melkite, Maronite, Armenian, Chaldaean, and Coptic Catholics each use liturgies developed locally in the indigenous languages of the Middle East (Syriac, Greek, Armenian, and Coptic). Roman Catholics (the most common variety of Catholicism in Europe and the Americas) are known in the Middle East as Latin Rite Catholics, and come under the jurisdiction of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Catholic Christians have lived in the Middle East since the Crusades (1095-1291).

The Church of the East

The Church of the East was the first Christian church to emerge outside of the Roman Empire in the Sassanian Persian Empire. While the Church of the East accepts the creeds of the first two Ecumenical Councils, it does not affirm the Council of Ephesus‘s understanding of Jesus’ nature. Christians belonging to the Church of the East once inhabited the region from Syria to Central Asia. Today the Assyrian Church of the East in Iraq is the last remnant of this ancient tradition.

Oriental Orthodox Communion

Oriental Orthodox Churches, while affirming the creeds of first three Ecumenical Councils, do not agree with the Council of Chalcedon‘s understanding of Jesus’ nature. Like the Eastern (Greek) Orthodox, there is no singular Oriental Orthodox church. It is an association of national churches united by common theology and practices. In the Middle East, these churches include the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, and the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church

Eastern (Greek) Orthodox Communion

To be “orthodox” means to have the right beliefs. Eastern (Greek) Orthodox Christians affirm the creeds of the first seven Ecumenical Church Councils, which established the doctrines of the Holy Trinity and the nature of Christ.  There is no singular “orthodox church;” instead, the Orthodox Communion is an association of national churches, each with its own leader or patriarch. All Eastern (Greek) Orthodox churches share the same theology and practices (which are both liturgical and sacramental). In the Middle East, these churches include the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, and the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa.