The Orthodox Church is:

  • the oldest Church in the world, although many Americans are unfamiliar with it.

  • the second-largest body in Christendom, with over 225 million people worldwide, fewer than two million of which are in North America. 

  • One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, having an unbroken tradition from Jesus Christ and the Apostles to today.

  • the Church of many of history’s greatest theologians, scholars and writers — people like John Chrysostom, Jerome, Basil the Great, John of Damascus, Dostoyevsky and Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

  • sometimes referred to by any number of its “ethnic” titles such as Greek, Russian, Serbian, Syrian, Romanian, Bulgarian, etc. 

  • often known as “The Church of the Martyrs,” so high is the commitment of many Orthodox Christians to Christ and His Church. In the twentieth century alone, more than 20 million Orthodox Christians have given their lives for their faith, primarily under communism. 

A Brief History Lesson

Orthodox literally means “true worship” or “true belief,” and is a name that describes nearly all of Christianity in the first ten centuries of Church history. We are Orthodox because we subscribe to the Orthodox teachings defined in the Bible, the Seven Ecumenical Councils, and the writings of the Early Church Fathers. Our basic statement of faith is the Nicene Creed, and the Bible plays a prominent role in our worship, beliefs and piety. 

The Orthodox Church is the first Christian church, the Church founded by the Lord Jesus Christ and described in the pages of the New Testament. She is the only Christian church whose history can be traced in unbroken continuity all the way back to Christ and His Twelve Apostles. 

Incredible as it seems, for nineteen and a half centuries, she has continued in her undiminished and unaltered faith and practice. Today her Apostolic doctrine, worship and structure remain intact. The Orthodox Church maintains that the Church is the living body of Jesus Christ. 

Many are surprised to learn that for the first 1,000 years of Christian history there was just one Church. It was in the eleventh century that a disastrous split occurred, resulting in the Western Church under the Pope of Rome separating itself from the Orthodox Church. The Pope sought to establish himself over all of Christendom and finally succeeded in the West. But the rest of the Church emphatically rejected this innovation, knowing no so-called “universal head” apart from Jesus Christ himself.

But What is the Real Difference?

One writer has compared Orthodoxy to the faith of Rome and Protestantism in this basic fashion: 
"Orthodoxy has maintained the New Testament and Early Church tradition, whereas Rome has often added to it and Protestantism subtracted from it." 
Throughout the centuries, the Orthodox Church has steadfastly maintained the Apostolic faith “once for all delivered to the saints.” 

She understands the clergy as servants of Christ and His people - not a special privileged class. She has preserved the Apostles' doctrine of the return of Christ at the end of the age and of the last judgment and eternal life. She continues to encourage her people to grow in Christ through union with Him. In a word, Orthodox Christianity simply does not change!

The Orthodox Church in North America

For many centuries, the center of Orthodoxy was the East, so it is relatively new to North Americans. The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw Orthodoxy arrive in America with immigrants from Eastern Europe, Greece, Russia, and the Middle East. Since North America is largely Western in its religious and cultural history, the Orthodox immigrants were generally ignored as a “foreign” minority. As a result, these Orthodox Christians tended to maintain their Old World ethnic identity, even to the point of retaining their native languages in their worship. People who visited their churches were often unable to understand what was said or done.

Today, however, the Orthodox Church is being taken seriously in this country. People who are devoted to Christ but distressed and frustrated by recent doctrinal, liturgical and moral innovations in other churches are turning to the changeless Orthodox Church, out of a desire for doctrinal truth and more fullness in worship and spiritual life. Many people are discovering Orthodoxy as a place where the search for spiritual reality finds fulfillment. 

St. Elias Orthodox Church

St. Elias Orthodox Church was founded in Austin in the early 1930’s by a small group of Lebanese immigrants desiring to establish a place to pray and practice the Orthodox faith. Throughout the years, Greeks, Slavs, and Romanians, as well as Eritreans and a good number of Americans, have come to be a part of the parish, making St. Elias a unique community.

Our parish is a part of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. It is one of the 15 archdioceses that compose the Church of Antioch. Patriarch IGNATIUS IV heads the Church of Antioch. In apostolic times, Antioch was the most important city in Asia Minor, “and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26). The Church of Antioch dates from the time of the Apostles and was one of the five ancient sees of the early Christian Church: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. The Church of Antioch figured prominently in the mission to the Gentiles, sending the Apostle Paul to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ on three missionary journeys throughout the Roman Empire. 

St. Elias is a growing community with a commitment to evangelism, charity, and spiritual growth in Christ Jesus.