Orthodox churches are more recently established and local traditions less well developed.
The reaction of the patriarchs to the infant OCA shows the difficulties involved in setting up ecclesiastical structures for the west. The churches value and need their diaspora communities. Orthodox communities in the west often consist of those who have been displaced or forced to leave their homeland. Even if they left willingly, they value the links with their homelands and need to maintain their cultural and national identity. The dioceses in the west are now large, and wealthy, and so form an influential part of the national church in the east. They are especially valuable to smaller churches in the Middle East, such as the Syrian Orthodox Church or the churches of Israel and Palestine where large-scale recent migration has left the church in the homeland diminished and weakened, and relying on the support and membership of the communities in exile. The ecumenical patriarch has a particular interest, since the council of Chalcedon (451) gave him jurisdiction over Orthodox Christians in 'barbarian lands', which is taken as being anywhere outside the territory of national Orthodox churches. So, not only do the big Greek dioceses of the diaspora form the major part of his community, but also the patriarchate claims responsibility for directing the process of setting up new churches. While ecclesiological principles require the establishment of unified local western churches, there are many factors standing in the way of this development.
Political changes also present problems of organisation and identity in the historic Orthodox lands. Here the boundaries of the national church have usually coincided with those of the state. As a result the churches have identified themselves with national aspirations. When the new nations of the Balkans were struggling for freedom from Ottoman rule this was a creative relationship and the churches encouraged the development of national language, culture and institutions. They became the focus of the new state shaping and identifying itself in the nationalist struggle against Ottoman imperial authority. But once the nation was established the same identification could easily change into a narrow, exclusive and intolerant nationalism. The dangers of this were recognised by a council which met in Constantinople in 1870 and condemned the 'new and destructive principle of nationality'. It identified a new heresy called phyletism. Its error was to exaggerate the ethnic dimension to church life, in the sense that it becomes restricted to those of one race, rather than to those of one locality, meaning those of all races in a given territory. It therefore offends against the catholicity of the
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