The term jurisdiction refers to a given ecclesiastical entity and its parishes. Traditionally and canonically, all the parishes in a given region are governed by one bishop. Jurisdiction is used particularly in those areas where this traditional order has been upset and multiple ecclesiastical entities claim parishes in overlapping territories. Thus, it is a term of distinction which exists mainly because of an uncanonical situation, but has also come to refer generally to self-governing churches whose territories do not suffer from canonical disorder.
As the 19th century passed into the 20th emigration of people from traditionally Orthodox areas increased, bringing mixes of Orthodox Christians of different ethnic and nationalistic leanings into traditionally non-Orthodox areas, the so-called diaspora. While attempts were made to form a single new canonical episcopate in these countries, notably in North America, each ethnic group relied on their home church for support.
In addition to the increased emigration of people from Orthodox Christian areas at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries, the World Wars and Bolshevik aggressions of the 20th century accelerated the dispersions of Orthodox people and further complicated the ethnic identity issues with those driven by political issues. The result has been the proliferation of Orthodox groups in a single country that depend organizationally for their canonical standing on support of their historical old world churches. The term jurisdiction has become the norm for referring to these various Orthodox groups within the new territories.