Non-Chalcedonian Churches
The Council of Chalcedon, convened by the Byzantine Emperor Marcian in the year 451 CE, in the town of Chalcedon (mod. Kadiköy, Turkey - a small town in European Turkey, 113 miles (182 km.) west of Istanbul at the point where the Gallipoli Peninsula meets the mainland), was the Fourth Ecumenical Council in the history of the Christian Church, and one of the best-documented of the early Councils. It has had one of the largest impacts upon the subsequent development of Christian faith and doctrine, inasmuch as it prescribed universal acceptance of the Nicene Creed, as well as the publication of two important doctrinal theses against Nestorian beliefs, and Pope Leo's Tome, a work explaining and defending objections to Monophysite beliefs. Predictable, certain Christian communities could not accept the rulings, and went their own path. These communions survived centuries of discord with their Orthodox neighbours, and achieved a stable presence in the Middle East, albeit a small one. Their descendents continue the traditions to this day, sometimes in locales undreamt-of in the 5th century. Although these communities were labeled as heretics by mainstream Christianity, their survival differentiates them from other heretical movements, and so I place them here rather than on the Heresiarchs page.

This file contains: Alexandria (Coptic), Antioch (Jacobite), Armenian, Assyrian, Eritrean, Ethiopian, Jerusalem (Coptic), and Nestorian Patriarchates.

ALEXANDRIA; the COPTIC PATRIARCHS  The Copts - the word is a Westernization of the Arabic al-Qibt, itself derived from the Greek Ægyptioi, = "an Egyptian" - as an identifiable ethnic group came into being when Arab Muslim residents began calling themselves al-Misri [Arabic for "Egyptian"], reserving "al-Qibti" for the indigenes (purely as an aside, the native Egyptian term for themselves is "Khem", from which the word "Chemistry" is derived). They are the largest Christian sect in Egypt, and have long been in conflict with the Orthodox community of that country. The Coptic Church split with Orthodoxy in the late 440's after the Fourth Ecumenical council declared Monophysitism, the doctrine that Jesus had  a single nature (as opposed to a human and a divine nature) was heresy. The Copts appointed their own patriarchs in Jerusalem, Antioch and elsewhere, but the most important patriarchate was that of Alexandria, which existed alongside the Orthodox patriarchate (rarely peacefully). Today the Coptic Patriarchs of Alexandria have the title of Pope and the Coptic church shares communion with other Monophysite churches, including the Jacobites of Syria, the Armenian church, and the Abyssinian Church of Ethiopia. It should be noted that in recent decades the Coptic and Orthodox communities have achieved a more careful understanding of the nature of the conflict between the two, with the result that the original Monophysite controversy has been nearly abandoned as a significant issue.
    There is a very real sense in which these people are the lineal heirs to the entire weight of ancient Egyptian heritage and culture; for although they are drastically outnumbered by their Muslim neighbours, the Coptic liturgical language (spoken in everyday life as late as the 17th century) is the directly evolved descendent of the ancient Egyptian language. Persecuted or heavily restricted for better than 1550 years, the Coptic community very gradually grew smaller, more insular, and less vital. Just in the last 45 years or so, they have undergone something of a renaissance, though. Pope Kyrillos VI decided that they needed to reach out or die, and so he encouraged the establishment of Coptic parishes around the world. The effort seems to have been successful, and now Coptic churches can be seen in many locales undreamt of in earlier ages. In each, part of the liturgy is devoted to prayers for the continued well-being of Egypt and of the Nile.

The list is the same as that of the Orthodox patriarchs of Alexandria until the schism of the late 440's.

ANTIOCH: Jacobite Patriarchs The Jacobite Patriarch is one of at least six contenders to the see of Antioch - the others being the Roman Catholic, Maronite, Melkite, Greek Orthodox, and Nestorian candidates. In 544, Jacob Baradaeus (a Monophysite leader) consecrated Sergius of Tella as Patriarch in opposition to the Imperial-backed Orthodox candidate. Although the Syrian Orthodox or Jacobite church, like the Coptic, no longer follow the Monophysite doctrine, and are doctrinally almost identical to the Eastern Orthodox churches, old emnities die hard and the church continues to preserve an independent identity, in communion with the Armenian, Coptic, and Abyssinian churches.

ARMENIAN PATRIARCHATE  The Armenian people have seldom held a secure and independent realm of their own, but have often been at the mercy of the neighbours. In some ways resembling Diaspora Jewry in that Armenians have normally been found as isolated communities throughout the Middle East, their religion has been a powerful source of unity to them, and has been enormously influential in preserving the identity of the culture. Since the 15th century, the seat of the Patriarchate has been in the ancient city of Etchmiadzin, about 10 miles west of the current Armenian capital of Yerevan, and about 7 miles north of the Armenian/Turkish frontier. The Armenian Church is a Monophysite communion, and therefore is most closely related to Syrian, Coptic and Ethiopian branches of Christianity. See also, the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. For a neighbouring Church hierarchy, Eastern Orthodox in it's theology, see below, the Georgian Patriarchate. Also note the existence of an Armenian Roman Catholic communion.

THE ETHIOPIAN (Abyssinian) CHURCH The Ethiopian Church is arguably one of the oldest continuously existing churches in the world. It was founded around the year 330 by Frumentius, a Syrian shipwrecked in Ethiopia and later ordained a bishop by St. Athanasius of Alexandria and returned to Ethiopia to help with the continued evangelization of the country. In the late 400's the "Nine Saints", a group of exiled Coptic theologians, brought Coptic beliefs to Ethiopia and brought the country in communion with the Copts of Egypt and the Jacobites of Syria. Ethiopian Christianity retains several pagan and Jewish traditions, including circumcision. Liturgy is in the Ge'ez language, though increasingly Amharic is used. Most of the bishops of Ethiopia were Egyptians appointed by the Coptic Pope in Alexandria. In the early 20th century the Ethiopian church pressed for greater autonomy. In 1948 the Abyssinian Orthodox (Ethiopian Coptic) Church was made autocephalus under its Metropolitan; in 1959 the Metropolitan was raised in status to Patriarch, answering only in theory to the Pope in Alexandria. Bear in mind while examining this list that there tended to be significant gaps between administrations, because of the exceedingly lengthy and dangerous journey required by representatives of the Ethiopoan Church to Alexandria in order to report the vacancy, followed by an equally difficult return to the distant southern mountains with the new candidate. Eritrean Church Autocephaly granted by Coptic Church in 1993; see elevated to a Patriarchate by the Coptic Pope in 1998.

JERUSALEM - Coptic Metropolitans In 1236, the Coptic Pope Cyril appointed a Coptic Orthodox bishop of Jerusalem.  Previously within the Oriental Orthodox churches, this was the exclusive prerogative of the Patriarch of Antioch. This appointment angered Patriarch Ignatius III David, who retaliated by attempting unsuccessfully to fill the vacancy of Abuna or metropolitan for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Nevertheless, and with numerous interregnums, a Coptic prelate continues to be resident to this day.

The NESTORIANS (the Church of the East [Ecclesia Orientalis]) The Church of the East was originally the Christian Church of Persia. Since Persia was incessantly at war with Rome, resident Christians would have been under some pressure to show that they were not acting as agents of Rome. Possibly for this reason the Church of the East has often distinguished itself both theologically and liturgically from its Western and Orthodox counterparts. Missionaries of this church ranged far and wide across Asia, winning huge numbers of converts in India, China, and among the nomadic peoples of Central Asia (see, e.g., Kerait, Qara-Khitai, and Naiman). The Ecclesia Orientalis is sometimes referred to as the Nestorian church, but this appellation, as discussed below, is somewhat misleading. During the ascendancy of the Mongols, many notable leaders, including Hulegu (the first Ilkhan), belonged to this church, and though reliable statistics are not available, it is likely that this church, whose remnants today number at most a few million, boasted the largest population of any Christian denomination.

N.B.!! The Assyrian and Chaldean churches each hold to different chronologies for the Patriarchs until the early 1700's. This list is an attempt to reconcile the two lists but dates given before 1700 should be regarded as approximations.