Armenian Apostolic Church - Structure and Leadership

Structure and Leadership

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The Armenian Apostolic Church is the central religious authority for the Armenian Orthodox population in the Republic of Armenia as well as for Armenian Orthodox communities worldwide.

It is headed by a Catholicos (the plural is Catholicoi). Although it is traditional in Eastern churches for the supreme head of the church to be named 'Patriarch', in the Armenian Apostolic Church hierarchy, the position of the Catholicos is higher than that of the Patriarch. The Armenian Apostolic Church presently has two catholicoi (Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia), and two patriarchs, plus primates, archbishops and bishops, lower clergy and laity serving the Church.

The Catholicos of All Armenians represents the centralised authority of the Armenian Church. He is the supreme judge and the head of the legislative body. He is President of the Supreme Spiritual Council as well as the College of Bishops. Ordination of bishops, blessing of Holy Chrism, proclamation of feasts, invitation and dismissal of National-ecclesiastical assemblies, issuing decrees concerning the administration of the Armenian Church and establishing dioceses are part of his responsibilities.

Both clergy and lay are involved in the administrative structure of the Church. Led by Karekin II, the spiritual and administrative work of the Armenian Church is carried out in the Republic of Armenia in the areas of religion, preparation of clergy, Christian education, construction of new churches, social services, and ecumenical activities. Underneath this administrative structure are the hierarchical sees:

The Catholicossate of the Great House of Cilicia located in Antelias, Lebanon, is a regional See with current jurisdiction of the Dioceses of Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus as temporarily granted to her by the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 1929, is led by Catholicos Aram I.

The Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem which has jurisdiction over all of the Holy Lands and the Diocese of Jordan, is led by Patriarch Archbishop Torgom Manoogian.

The Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople and All of Turkey, which has jurisdiction in the modern day Republic of Turkey, is led by Patriarch Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan.

The three historic aforementioned hierarchal sees administer to the Dioceses under their jurisdiction as they see fit, however, the supremacy of the Catholicosate of All Armenians in all spiritual matters remains pre-eminent.

In addition to the responsibilities of overseeing their respective Dioceses, each hierarchical See, and the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, has a Monastic Brotherhood.

Seminaries

The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin operates two seminaries, the Gevorkian Theological Seminary at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, and the Vaskenian Theological Academy at Lake Sevan. Over a 6-year course of simultaneous study, students receive both a Bachelors degree and a Masters degree in Theology. The Great House of Cilicia operates one seminary, the Seminary of Antelias at Bikfaya, Lebanon. Upon graduation, students receive the equivalent of a high school diploma and pre-graduate theological study. The Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem operates the St. Tarkmanchatz School (high school diploma) and the Theological Seminary of the Patriarchate (pre-graduate study). The Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople has suspended the operation of its seminary, Holy Cross Patriarchal Seminary, since 1971.

St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in New Rochelle, NY also trains Armenian priests, awarding the Master of Divinity in Theology (through an affiliation with nearby OCA St. Vladimir's Seminary). St. Nersess also offers a Master of Arts in Armenian Christian Studies.

Structure

Regionally, each area of the world where the Armenian Church and faithful are located has dioceses, which are led by a primate from the Diocesan headquarters. Each diocese is made up of parishes and smaller communities.

The spiritual and administrative bodies representing the authority of the Armenian Church are the following:

The National Ecclesiastical Assembly is the supreme legislative body presided over by the Catholicos of All Armenians. The members of the National Ecclesiastical Assembly are elected by the individual Diocesan Assemblies. The National Ecclesiastical Assembly elects the Catholicos of All Armenians.

The Council of Bishops is an administrative-deliberative body presided over by the Catholicos of All Armenians. It makes suggestions on the dogmatic, religious, church, parish and canonical issues to be discussed as agenda items during the National Ecclesiastical Assembly.

The Supreme Spiritual Council is the highest executive body of the Armenian Church and is presided over by the Catholicos of All Armenians. The members of the Council can be elected by the National Ecclesiastical Assembly or appointed by the Catholicos of All Armenians. The Catholicos of All Armenians, Gevorg V. Soorenian established the Supreme Spiritual Council on January 1, 1924, to replace the Synod of Bishops.

The Diocesan Assembly is the highest legislative (canonical) body of each Diocese and is headed by the Primate of the Diocese. The Diocesan delegates (representatives of each parish community) elect the delegates to the National Ecclesiastical Assembly, the members of the Diocesan Council as well as discuss and decide on administrative issues within the Diocese such as committees, budgets, building, etc. In some Dioceses, the Diocesan Assembly elects the Primate of the Diocese.

The Diocesan Council is the highest executive power of a diocese, presided over by the Primate of the Diocese. It regulates the inner administrative activity of the Diocese under the direction of the Primate. The Diocesan Assembly elects members of the Diocesan Council.

The Monastic Brotherhood consists of the celibate clergy of the monastery who are led by an abbot. As of 2010, there were three brotherhoods in the Armenian Church – the brotherhood of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, the brotherhood of St. James at the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the brotherhood of the See of Cilicia. Each Armenian celibate priest becomes a member of the brotherhood in which he has studied and ordained in or under the jurisdiction of which he has served. The brotherhood makes decisions concerning the inner affairs of the monastery. Each brotherhood elects two delegates who take part in the National Ecclesiastical Assembly.

The Parish Assembly is the general assembly of the community presided over by the spiritual pastor. The Parish Assembly elects or appoints the members of the Parish Council and the representatives or delegates to the Diocesan Assembly.

The Parish Council is the executive-administrative body of the community. It is presided over by the spiritual pastor of the community who takes up the inner administrative affairs of the parish and is engaged in the realization of its administrative and financial activities. Members of the parish council are elected or appointed at the parish assembly.

The Armenian Apostolic Church is one of a few apostolic churches in the world to have a democratic system; the people decide if they want to keep priests in their churches and may ask for different ones, as do some other ecclesiastical constitutions, such as Baptists and other Congregational churches.

Note that the Armenian Apostolic Church should not be confused, however, with the Armenian Catholic Church whose Patriarch-Catholicos (of the Armenian Catholic Rite) is Nerses Bedros XIX, which is an Eastern Catholic church in communion with the Holy See in Rome.

Read more about this topic:  Armenian Apostolic Church

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