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Autocephaly

In hierarchical Christian churches, especially Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches, autocephaly is the status of a hierarchical church whose head bishop does not report to any higher-ranking bishop. When a high-ranking bishop, such as a patriarch, releases an ecclesiastical province from his authority while remaining in full communion with that newly independent church, he is granting autocephaly. For example, the Cypriot Orthodox Church is autocephalous because it was granted autocephaly by the Patriarch of Constantinople and is ruled by the Archbishop of Cyprus, who is not subject to any higher ecclesiastical authority, although his church remains in full communion with the Patriarch. Similarly, the Tawahido Church of Ethiopia was granted autocephaly by the Coptic pope in 1950, and the Orthodox Church in America was granted autocephaly by the Patriarch of Moscow in 1970. (The Greek Orthodox Church in North America is not autocephalous, but is subject to the Patriarch of Constantinople.)

One step short of autocephaly is autonomy. A church that is autonomous has its highest-ranking bishop, such as a patriarch or metropolitan, appointed by the patriarch of the parent church, but is self-governing in all other respects. For instance, the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America became autonomous in 2002.

See also Episcopalian



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