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4.The Central Authority
This leads one to think of Orthodoxy as a very loosely organized body. How is the Orthodox Church organized and how is it held together as one worldwide Church?
The Orthodox Church as a whole is the unity of what are called local autocephalous or autonomous churches. These words mean simply that these churches govern themselves, electing their own bishops and organizing their own lives.
Each of these churches has exactly the same doctrine, discipline and spiritual practices. They use the same Bible, follow the same canon laws, confess the authority of the same Church Councils and worship by what is essentially the same liturgy.
It is nothing other than this communion in faith and practice which unites all Orthodox Churches together into one world-wide body. In this sense, there is no one dominating authority in the Orthodox Church, no particular bishop or see or document which has authority over the churches.
In practice, the Church of Constantinople has functioned for centuries as the church responsible for guiding and preserving the worldwide unity of the family of self-governing Orthodox Churches. But it must be noticed that this responsibility is merely a practical and pastoral one. It carries no sacramental or juridical power with it and it is possible that in the future this function may pass to some other church.