Ancient Church of the East

Religions, Cults & Worldviews: Valuable Answers for Valid Questions.

By George M. Groutas -, CC BY 2.0,

Ancient Church of the East Monastery – Wikimedia Commons



– Emerged as distinct from the Assyrian Church of the East with the appointment of Mar Thoma Darmo in 1968.

This church does not descend from the line of churches of Eastern Orthodox belief but rather under the line that has been referred to as the Schismatic (by the Roman Catholic Church) or Oriental Orthodox churches which broke apart from the earthly church organisation in the 4th-5th centuries – long before there was a clear Eastern vs Western church rivalry.

Like most Oriental and Coptic Eastern Churches, the theology of the Church of the East was largely impacted by the work of Nestorius who was declared a heretic by the Roman Catholic church for his views on Christology.

Just about all historic information on this relatively young denomination point back to the Assyrian Church of the East in the immediate past and then back to the Church of East as part of its ancient history. It is fair for the Ancient Church of the East to claim direct relationship to the Church of the East as it indirectly proceeded from this church coining the name “Ancient” to associate itself with the predecessor of the Assyrian Church.

The Ancient Church of the East theology has been stated briefly and clearly in the following “Hymn of Praise (TESHBOKHTA)” Composed by Mar Babai the Great in the sixth century A.D., a noted theologian of the Church of the East

One is Christ the Son of God,
Worshiped by all in two natures;
In His Godhead begotten of the Father,
Without beginning before all time;
In His humanity born of Mary,
In the fullness of time, in a body united;
Neither His Godhead is of the nature of the mother,
Nor His humanity of the nature of the Father;
The natures are preserved in their Qnumas*,
In one person of one Sonship.
And as the Godhead is three substances in one nature,
Likewise the Sonship of the Son is in two natures, one person.
So the Holy Church has taught.

This group now claims direct succession from the ancient “Church of the East” in Mesopotamia after having departed the Assyrian Church of the East in 1968 over differing views and acceptance of the Gregorian calendar vs. the Julian calendar. A.C.E. is headquartered in Baghdad, Iraq and has faced tremendous persecution in recent days from the radical Muslim terrorist group known as ISIS. Despite this, its adherents number at about 100,000 all around the world with a congregation even as far afield as Glendale Arizona!

As recently as 2015 there have been unification efforts made by the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East (both based in Iraq). However, these fell flat when an Assyrian Church leader introduced the idea of rejoining in communion with Roman Catholicism – a notion that seems to be sweeping most major and ancient denominations and even Charismatics and Seeker Sensitive churches!

Eastern Orthodox denominations – the Oriental Orthodox churches broke off in the earliest of schisms in Church history. Some were Nestorians, others were “monophysites” (a complex understanding of Christology unfairly declared heretical). This family still has a representation of denominations dating back to the third century – Coptic Christians in Egypt (heavily persecuted by Muslims), Church of India (established by the Apostle Thomas), Armenian Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (possibly dating as far back as the Biblical encounter between the Apostle Philip and the influential Ethiopian eunich in Acts 8)

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