10- Pt.1: The Structure of the Undivided Early Church

Go To the Beginning of this Booklet The Spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the First Millennium of the Undivided Early Church: An Overview of the Family Theology that Revolutionizes Bible Reading and its Implications Towards the Eventual Re-Establishment of the Undivided Early Church’s Unity in Diversity

The “Daughter Churches” of the Original “Pentarchy” of Christian Sister Churches and Patriarchates,

Including Those “Estranged Daughters” Which Broke Away from the Universal (Catholic) Christian Communion in the 2nd Millennium but Which Remained “Catholic at Heart,” Still Committed to  the Traditional Essential Fundamentals of Christian Orthodoxy Which Were Clearly Articulated and Established (Against Many Early Christian Heretical Interpretations of the Bible) by the Original Pentarchy of Five Patriarchates (Church Provinces) of Different Culturally-based Sister Churches or Rites at the First Millennium Ecumenical (Worldwide) Councils of the Undivided Early Catholic (Universal) Christian Church, the Catholic Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches

Part I:  The Structure of the Undivided Early Church

The Church is the “profound mystery” (see Ephesians 5:22-32) of the Bride and Body of Jesus Christ, animated by the Divine Holy Spirit as the “soul” which enlivens that Body of Christ the Church and leads it into “all the truth” (John 16:13), which makes the Church “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), which is why the judgements of the Undivided Early Church’s Councils of ordained Christian overseers (bishops, eparchs, patriarchs and popes) as to just what the Canon of the New Testament is and just how the Christian Bible must be interpreted (so as to yield the traditional Christian fundamental doctrines) can be trusted by all Christians today (“doctrinally liberal” Protestantism, which dominates the oldest and largest Protestant “mainline” denominations today, is typically uncertain about even basic Christian orthodoxy, and sometimes blatantly unorthodox/heretical, Catholic Christians would say precisely because the Protestant Reformation rejected this Biblical understanding of the Church in history as truly though mysteriously (see Ephesians 5:22-32) the Living Body of Christ on Earth, in communion with and directed by Christ the Head of the Body through His Holy Spirit, despite the human failings of individual Church leaders). 

For certain, the Undivided Early Church called itself the Catholic Church because it was a Catholic (Greek for Universal) Communion of different culturally-based “Rites” (different cultural responses to and celebrations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ).  These Rites, once established and organized, were also called ‘particular’ (or ‘Sister’) Churches which together made up the one Catholic (Universal) Christian Church.  Structurally this ancient Catholic Church was (and is) made up of: 

1)   the ancient Jerusalem (initially Jewish) Rite or Sister Church , where the (initially entirely Jewish) Church of Jesus Christ began with the descent of the Holy Spirit, and where the very first (Holy Spirit-led) Church Council was held in settlement of the very first major dispute among Christians (Acts 15); 

2)  the ancient Antiochene (Syrian), Alexandrian (Egyptian), Roman (currently by far the largest but this was not always so), and Byzantine (Greek) Gentile (non-Jewish) Rites or Sister Churches which developed thanks to the preaching of the Gospel by the Jewish Apostles and disciples of Jesus who started from Jerusalem (these four Sister Churches together with the Jerusalem Church were known as the “Pentarchy” of Church Patriarchates or Provinces which participated in the (Holy Spirit-led) Early Ecumenical Councils which clearly defined the essential truths of Christianity in settlement of major disputes among early Christians caused by early Christian heretics); and 

3) the many missionary “daughter” Rites or Churches of the above ancient Gentile Sister Churches  (the first four Gentile cultures as renewed in Christ), which were initially mission fields for the above ancient Rites of the Church but which eventually developed their own distinct cultural response to and expression of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, while still retaining many elements of their “mother” Rite which had initially evangelized them (today’s Catholic Church has 26 Sister Churches including all the “daughter” Rites which remain in the Catholic Communion – but it could have many more Rites, all of them still “daughter” Rites of the original five cultures renewed in Jesus, if the fundamentally orthodox, “Catholic at heart” already churches rejoin the ancient Catholic Communion they formally left though they unconsciously still remain in it “in heart” by their orthodoxy. Such reunion according to the structure of the Undivided Early Church would absolutely not mean Protestant churches being absorbed into the huge Roman Catholic Sister Church but formally becoming their own Catholic ‘Sister Churches’ of “fully equal dignity” with the Roman Rite, according to the Catholic Church’s own recent official and dogmatic teaching of the nature and structure of the Church in Vatican II, the 21st Ecumenical Council).

In consideration of the Undivided Early Church’s structure it is helpful to distinguish between these 3 terms: 

1)  a Rite is a particular Christian sub-group’s identifiable particular way of expressing their Christian faith, usually a particular cultural response to, expression of and celebration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, though Rites are also sometimes spirituality-based rather than culturally-based – based on the spirituality of a particular saint or religious order or spiritual movement within the Church. 

2) a Sister Church (or particular Church within the Catholic/Universal Church) is an older and more organized Rite which actually has its own separate hierarchy of ordained overseers (bishops or eparchs) within the Catholic (Universal) Communion of Sister Churches (or, sadly today, sometimes outside of it). 

3) a Patriarchate is a very well-established Sister Church of venerable age and historical contribution to the Church.  The oldest and most well established distinct Rites or Sister Churches eventually become officially known as Patriarchates, with the ordained overseers (also called bishops or eparchs) who head them known as Patriarchs

So all Patriarchates are Sister Churches, and all Sister Churches are Rites, but not all Rites are yet Sister Churches and not all Sister Churches are yet Patriarchates.

© 2009 Peter William John Baptiste, SFO

Go To the Next Section The “Daughter Churches” of the Original ‘Pentarchy’ of Christian Sister Churches and Patriarchates, Including Those “Estranged Daughters” Which Broke Away from the Universal (Catholic) Christian Communion in the 2nd Millennium but Which Remained “Catholic at Heart,” Still Committed to  the Traditional Essential Fundamentals of Christian Orthodoxy Which Were Clearly Articulated and Established (Against Many Early Christian Heretical Interpretations of the Bible) by the Original Pentarchy of Five Patriarchates (Church Provinces) of Different Culturally-based Sister Churches or Rites at the First Millennium Ecumenical (Worldwide) Councils of the Undivided Early Catholic (Universal) Christian Church, the Catholic Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches Part II:  the Patriarchates of the Undivided Early Church’s “Pentarchy” Together with Their “Daughter Rites,” Those Currently in or out of the Ancient Catholic (Universal) Christian Communion (This Leads to What a Christian Church Reunified According to the Undivided Early Church Model of Unity in Diversity Would Look Like)

Go To the Beginning of this Booklet The Spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the First Millennium of the Undivided Early Church: An Overview of the Family Theology that Revolutionizes Bible Reading and its Implications Towards the Eventual Re-Establishment of the Undivided Early Church’s Unity in Diversity