The Oriental Orthodox Christians historically refer to the Orthodox Christians who did not accept the council of Chalcedon (4th Ecumenical council of the Byzantine Orthodox and Roman Catholics). These Christians generally were located around the frontier of the Roman Empire--Antioch in the Near East, Alexandria in Africa--and beyond into greater Asia and Africa.
Today the Oriental Orthodox faith is distinguished by their rites: The Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch & Malankara Syrian Orthodox (the Syriac Orthodox Church in India), the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, the Ethiopian Tawehedo Orthodox Church, and the Eritrean Orthodox Church.
The Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451 resulted in the schism of Christendom into two groups. The Catholic (Rome) and Greek (Byzantine) Churches accepted the Council, while the Syrian (Antioch) and Coptic (Alexandria) Churches rejected it. The former group adopted the doctrine that Christ is in two natures, human and divine, while the latter adopted the doctrine that Christ has one incarnate nature from two natures. It is worth noting that the drafts of the Council were according to the position of the Syrian and Coptic Churches. The final resolution, however, was according to the doctrine of the Western Churches. The difference lies in one preposition as explained. One word split the Church for centuries and the schism continues to this day.
No. The monophysite dogma is an extreme version of the one nature Christological doctrine put forth by Eutyches. It claims that Christ has one nature only and that the divine nature subsumed the human nature. Adversaries have accused the Syriac Orthodox Church of the monophysite position. However this dogma has always been rejected by the Syriac Orthodox Church. It is unfortunate that this term is still used by some scholars. Prof. Sebastian Brock of Oxford University has correctly suggested using the term miaphysite which more accurately describes the Syriac Orthodox position.
Additional Comments: African saints such as St. Cyril of Alexandria used the term Mia Physis to describe the "One Divine Nature" of Christ, who is the Logos incarnate. This term is common to both the Oriental Orthodox and Byzantine Orthodox; both of whom reject Monophysitism.
In the Syriac Orthodox Church, the primary language used is Classical Syriac. Additional portions of the liturgy have also been translated into Turoyo (Modern Western Syriac), Surith (Modern Eastern Syriac), Turkish, Malayalam, English, French, Spanish, and Arabic.
In the Coptic Orthodox Church, the primary language used is Coptic, an evolved form of Ancient Egyptian. Other portions of the liturgy have been translated into Arabic, Swahili, and other African languages.
In the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the primary language used is Geez, with portions in Amharic and Coptic. Until recently, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was part of the administration of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
From Antioch, the Syriac Orthodox evangelized Mesopotamia, India, Armenia, Arabia, Persia, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Western China (Xian Fu province). Today however, the Church is located mostly in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine. Emigration and evangelization have brought the Church to Sweden, Germany, Holland, North America, South America, Australia, and Indonesia.
From Alexandria, the Coptic Orthodox evangelized Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Kenya, Tanzania, Libya, and other portions of Africa. Today the Church population is located in Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and South Africa. Like the Syriac Orthodox, emigration and evangelization has brought the Coptic Orthodox Church to Great Britain where it is quickly blossoming, the Caribbean, Europe, and North America.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church was an integral part of the Coptic Orthodox Church until quite recently. Since then, the late Emperor Hallie Sellasie sent missionaries to the Caribbean to bring the faith to the Rastafarians who were worshipping Emperor Sellasie. One famous convert to the Oriental Orthodox faith from this effort, was Reggae superstar Bob Marley, who took the name Berabe Selassie at baptism. Lately there has been a great interest amongst African-Americans who are now discovering the ancient Christianity of Africa.
The Armenian Apostolic Church evangelized Eastern Georgia (the country on the Black Sea, not the State), who was at one time part of the Oriental Orthodox. Later, the Georgians joined communion with the Byzantine Orthodox and remain so to this day. The Armenian Orthodox Church is presently located in Armenia, throughout the Middle East and Iran, as well as North and South America, Europe, and Australia.
Some inside, as well as outside, the Oriental Orthodox community have wrongly associated the name "Assyrian Orthodox Church" with the "Assyrian Church of the East," sometimes referred to as the Nestorian Church. The Assyrian Orthodox Church is an older name (in the English language) for the Syriac Orthodox Church. The Armenian Apostolic Church still refers to the Syriac Orthodox as the Assyrian Orthodox.
The Church changed the name to Syriac in the English language because of the politicl stigmae attatched to the names "Assyrian," as well as "Syrian." Syriac refers to the rite used by the Church of Antioch. As for the Assyrian Church of the East, the name "Assyrian" was only added in 1975. Regardless, the Syriac name for the Syriac Orthodox Church (aka Assyrian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Assyrian Apostolic) has remained Aeeto Suryoyto Treesayth ShubHo in the Syriac language.
His Holiness explains..."What appeared and appears contrary to this name is not only alien and foreign, but also a distortion, falsification and forgery of the historical truth. We, in our Apostolic power, declare our distress and disapproval to the new names which have appeared lately and which have been attached to our Church and our people such as 'Assyrian', 'Aramaean' and the like. These names aim at distracting the existence of our Church, dividing its children, destroying the landmarks of its glories, and annihilating its civilization and its spiritual and humanitarian traditions. For more on this please view the encyclical at SOR.
St. Mary's is located in Plymouth, Indiana. Because Orthodox Christianity is a life-long endeavor, you will be required to know what you are getting into. After you have learned the beliefs of the Church, you can then be baptized and chrismated into the Church.
Then we can put you in contact with a priest who will take the time to send you material and give you instructions about our spiritual life. You may also want to get ahold of some material regarding the faith. Here is a good bibliography for beginners.