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Autocephalous, from Greek auto "self" + cephalous "head", literally means "self-governing".

Autonomous churches of Christianity do not recognize a single ruling doctrinal and ecclesiastical governmental authority such as the Pope. Both Orthodox and Protestant churches boast autocephalous assemblies, local, regional and international.

The autocephalous "jurisdictions" of Orthodoxy recognize each other as holding the same basic doctrine of Christianity as received from the time of the apostles.

Protestant churches which do not recognize a central authority (congregational polity) consists of groups that broke away from a larger hierarchal ecclesiastical body to form independent denominational groups and churches, and those that broke away from other congregational groups. In both cases, these churches officially declare that they are locally self-governed ("independent and autonomous") and generally recognize only the Bible as the rule of faith (sola scriptura). Protestant churches are noted for divisions based on differences of interpretation of biblical doctrines, disputes over meanings of legitimate church government authority, and often over personality conflicts.

See also

Churches of Christ


Non-denominational church

Anglican Communion

Independent Catholic churches

Society of St. Pius X

Orthodox Church


Protestant Reformation

Apostolic succession

External links