How Has Orthodox Church Changed in the 21st century?

THOMAS BERG is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Number of Orthodox Christians has declined as share of global Christian population

A recent study by the Pew Research Center reported that Orthodoxy, being the third-largest Christianity branch after Catholicism and Protestantism, has around 260 million followers all over the world.

In 1054, Orthodoxy, also known as Eastern Christianity, split from the Catholic Church over various disputes and disagreements on theological issues as well as papal authority. Today, this branch of Christianity has devout followers everywhere in the world, especially in European countries.

The aforementioned research found that although the number of Orthodox Christians has more than doubled globally over the last hundred years, it has also declined as a share of the overall Christian population.

Despite the number of followers doubling by 135 million since 1910, it appears that Orthodox Christianity figures have fallen because of the rapid and major increase in the population of Catholic, Protestant and other branches of Christianity all over the world. In fact, the number of Christians other than Orthodox Christians has almost quadrupled to 1.9 billion in 2010, from a mere 490 million back in 1910.

To put things into perspective, it may be useful to know that only 12 percent of the world’s Christians are Orthodox, as compared to about 20 percent in 1910. Also, in terms of global population, just 4 percent follow Orthodox Christianity, which means that the number has fallen by 3 percent in the last century. In 1910, 7 percent of the world’s population constituted of Orthodox Christians.

Another noteworthy result of the study was that 77 percent, which is more than three-quarters of the world’s Orthodox Christians, live in European countries. In contrast, just 24 percent of the world’s Catholics and 12 percent of the world’s Protestants live in Europe. Ethiopia too has an impressive Orthodox population, which stands at 36 million. It was found that Latin America, the Asia-Pacific region, and sub-Saharan Africa consist of a majority of Catholics and Protestants.

Other interesting findings included non-acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex marriage by Orthodox Christians in almost all the countries surveyed, except the United States and Greece; strong support of the church’s stance that women cannot be priests; as well as generally low desire for the Orthodox church to be reunited with the Catholic Church.

Just 35 percent of Orthodox Christians wish for a communion between the two churches, while Orthodox Christians in most countries support that women should not be ordained. In fact, a whopping 89 percent in Ethiopia favor the church’s stance, while the number stands at 74 percent in Romania for the same.

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