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Christianity, for example, has a major group of churches whose links to each other in a single communion constitutes the Orthodox Church. Adherents look back to the great ecumenical councils and even to Jesus's apostles as the root of their identity, but the groups that make up national churches known as autocephalous (meaning that they are in full communion with each other, but independent of external, patriarchal authority) also acknowledge autonomous churches—that is, those that are not in full communion with them (usually because of some jurisdiction issue). Other issues related to identity also play a role; Orthodox Christianity makes much of its connection to the Greek fathers, has adopted the Julian calendar, affirms the validity of married parish priests, and gives an important place to monasticism, especially that of Mount Athos, from which the episcopacy is drawn.

Orthodox Christianity's central doctrinal difference with Western Christianity concerns the Trinity as developed by St. Augustine; Orthodoxy rejects the filioque affirmed by the Latin Church; the Latin idea was that the Holy Spirit proceeded from both the Father and the Son. Orthodoxy made the rejection of this doctrine a central fixture of its beliefs. Perhaps as a result, a different spirit is to be found in Orthodox liturgy, where the worshipper is encouraged to experience the presence of God in the sacraments, the icons, and the beauty of the rituals. This emphasis implies an engagement with God's mystical presence in many forms, whereas the Western Church emphasizes the person of Jesus Christ as the principal focus of that engagement.

Beyond this reference to particular institutional churches, however, one must acknowledge that Christianity in general holds certain notions to be orthodox: the idea of a sacred writing called the Scriptures, the role of the community of believers, the church, the central place of Jesus Christ in the understanding of revelation, and a firm commitment to the concept of God. While each of these doctrines is configured according to each group's theological instincts, all Christian groups insist on these conceptions as normative, and in some sense they all see them as existing from the beginning of the tradition. Feminist theologians have raised questions about the representativeness of such "orthodoxies," since, they hold, the orthodox theologians ignore the patriarchal substratum within which conventional theology was framed. The feminist claim is to a more authentic equality and inclusionary model before the official orthodoxy shaped the accepted discourse. Despite these claims, one point seems convincing: included in the term orthodoxy is the idea that it reflects a loyalty to the original or authentic content and expression of the religion.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Octadecanoate to OvenbirdsOrthodoxy - Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Jewish Orthodoxy, Hinduism, Buddhism, Bibliography