Autocephaly and Orthodox Ecclesiastical Structure
In the early centuries of Christianity, church affairs were governed by the five major episcopal sees (or Patriarchates) of the Roman Empire: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Since then, numerous additional jurisdictions have been been recognized as having the status of autocephaly (or the somewhat related but more restricted status of "autonomy").
These jurisdictions usually correspond to political boundaries, and autocephaly has been closely linked to national self-determination and political independence. This can cause complications if political boundaries are re-drawn, one political entity is absorbed by another, an empire fragments, or if there is mass migration of Orthodox populations to a country that does not already have a strong Orthodox jurisdiction (as was the case in the United States and Canada). This sometimes uncomfortable interplay between Church and State can manifest itself as the intrusion of geopolitics into the sphere of religion, as can be seen repeatedly in this exhibition.
Even worse, there is no well-defined, systematic procedure by which autocephalous jurisdictions become recognized. There have been many cases of jurisdictions unilaterally claiming autocephaly, but where that self-proclamation was not accepted and the jurisdiction found itself in a state of "schism" with respect to its parent Church. Similarly, a jurisdiction might initially be recognized by only one or a very small number of Patriarchs. This process of recognition can play out over many years or even decades before a consensus is finally reached.