The Eastern Christian Churches – A Brief Survey

Ronald Roberson, CSP

I would like to introduce to you today a very important book. It is called The Eastern Christian Churches – A Brief Survey. It is, from my perspective, the best concise resource available on Eastern (Orthodox and Catholic) Churches.

What is even better, for people like us, in the so-called Majority World (oh, how I hate political correctness! what was wrong with the phrase ‘Third World’? or was it too obvious that the First World feels superior to us? they do, anyway, and the new phrase did not change anything about it; that is why I agree with Patapievici: ‘political correctness is the American version of communism’) here is the good news: the content of the book, in its seventh edition, is available free on the internet.

The author of this book is Rev. Ronald Roberson, CSP (member of the Missionary Society of Saint Paul the Apostle or Paulist Fathers). Here is a presentation of Fr. Roberson on the same site, of CNEWA (Catholic Near East Welfare Association):

Ronald G. Roberson, CSP, received his Bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of Kansas in 1972. He then joined the Paulist Fathers and studied theology at Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. Following his ordination to the priesthood in 1977, Father Roberson spent five years in pastoral ministry in Montreal, Quebec. He received a doctorate from the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome in 1988 after defending his thesis on Contemporary Romanian Orthodox Ecclesiology. From 1988 to 1992 he was a member of the staff of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, where he worked in relations with the Orthodox. Father Roberson now lives at St. Paul’s College in Washington, DC and serves as Associate Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

I met the name of Fr Roberson for the first time during my doctoral studies. He has written the first ever PhD thesis on the theology of Fr. Staniloae (a very good one, in fact). During that time I have started a correspondence with him and we continue to communicate from time to time. I also receive from him, monthly, the  newsletter on Eastern Churches and Ecumenism published by the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (SEIA) of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I attach below, as an example, the last one. Enjoy!


Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

11 thoughts on “The Eastern Christian Churches – A Brief Survey”

  1. although negrut holds a phd in theology with an interesting subject in the romanian orthodox church, his thesis was never published in romanian. excerpts were published under other titles and with a limited impact.
    my concern (vorba vine…) cu privire la subiectul autorităţii în bor este că autorul tezei înţelege conceptul şi interacţionează academic, dar nu numai că nu evită greşelile expuse, ci le continuă într-un mod ce te lasă cu gura căscată.


  2. Well, you know the people, times, and trends better then I (have only been to Romania 3 times in the past 21 years … and have no clue what is going on there … politically or ecclesiastically … if there is a diff. between the 2 😉 )

    I did realize from Negrut’s treatment, that he TRIED to drive a wedge by putting a heavy accent on the diff. types (and thus supposed dis-unity) of the Churches of the East. When it came to the Eastern Orthodox churches … and making personal accusations against Gilquist and other Protestant converts .. he seemed to ingnore the fac that these people and churches moved towards the Orthodox Faith after 20 years of study and prayer … thus far away from Negrut’s accusation of ignorance.

    Another area that I wish Negrut would have gone deeper was when discussing holy Scriptures vs./and holy Tradition. He did not provide many sources and did not clearly outline the differences.


  3. That’s it. The response is fully deserved by that very unserious treatment of the subject by the Romanian church leader (I would have said ‘theologian’, but, although he may deserve that description for other writings, that one is simply the manipulative work of a church politician.


  4. This article has nothing to do with true scholarship and the academia. It is simply a pathetic piece of anti-Orthodox propaganda, whose purpose is to please his Southern Baptist donors.
    There is a very sharp response to this article by an Orthodox author. Do a search for Negrut AND Kalvesmaki


  5. I found that book very helpful too. That is why I presented it. The book was translated and published into Romanian (4th edition), but I doubt it is available now.
    I have received a copy of the thesis from Roberson himself, but in hard copy. I have no idea if it is available in digital form.


  6. Danut, THANK YOU so much for the link and the great book presentation. It is very searchable and easy to peruse.

    I was especially glad to see that the Oriental Orthodoix (Copts, Ethiopians, etc.) had their rightful place and presentation. Some Christians (and Orthodox) forget about this pre-Chalcedonian group of Eastern churches.

    Also, glad to hear someone in the West is taking Staniloe seriously. He is definitely worthy of the highest-level studies (PhD thesis). Any idea, where one can read a snippet or summary of Dr. Roberson’s thesis ?


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