Eastern Orthodox Church organization

The Eastern Orthodox Church is a communion comprising the fourteen or sixteen separate autocephalous (self-governing) hierarchical churches that recognize each other as "canonical" Eastern Orthodox Christian churches.

Each constituent church is self-governing; its highest-ranking bishop called the primate (a patriarch, a metropolitan or an archbishop) reports to no higher earthly authority. Each regional church is composed of constituent eparchies (or dioceses) ruled by bishops. Some autocephalous churches have given an eparchy or group of eparchies varying degrees of autonomy (limited self-government). Such autonomous churches maintain varying levels of dependence on their mother church, usually defined in a Tomos or other document of autonomy. In many cases, autonomous churches are almost completely self-governing, with the mother church retaining only the right to appoint the highest-ranking bishop (often an archbishop or metropolitan) of the autonomous church.[citation needed]

Normal governance is enacted through a synod of bishops within each church. In case of issues that go beyond the scope of a single church, multiple self-governing churches send representatives to a wider synod, sometimes wide enough to be called an Eastern Orthodox "ecumenical council". Such councils are deemed to have authority superior to that of any autocephalous church or its ranking bishop.[citation needed]