The Leadership 100 16th Annual Conference opened with the theme of “Heritage of Hope” led by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America who gave a stirring address on the history of the Orthodox Church in “Aspects of the History of the Church”.
Providing a comprehensive overview of more than 20 centuries of the history of the Orthodox Church and its geographical spread of the second largest Christian communion in the world, he said the Orthodox Church “shares 2,000 years of unbroken continuity with the teachings of Jesus Christ, His Apostles and the Fathers of the Church.” The Archbishop handily juggled statistics, church organization, theology, doctrine, scriptures and writings, heresies and persecution, and geopolitical factors in the rise of Orthodox Christianity.
Noting estimates of some 250 million Orthodox Christians worldwide (5.5. million in the U.S. of which 1.5 to 2 million are Greek Orthodox), His Eminence pointed to the growth of Orthodox Christianity in Korea and Africa in recent decades as an indication of the continued vitality of the ancient faith.
The address emphasized the critical development of the Orthodox faith in the first four centuries when the canon of the New Testament was decided, church doctrine defined in early ecumenical councils in the face of rising heresies, and Christians were persecuted until the legal acceptance of Christianity in the Roman Empire.
His Eminence then traced the development of Orthodox Christianity from its organization under the “Five Great Sees” or early Patriarchates, through the “Great Schism” with Rome, the Four Crusades, and to the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.