The Ecumenical Councils

The ecumenical council is a conference of bishops from the entire Christian Church convened to discuss and resolve issues of Church doctrine. The word comes from the Greek language “Universe“, which literally means “the inhabited world”, first subjected to the Roman Empire and subsequently extended to apply to the world in general.

Because of the schisms, the acceptance of these advice varies widely between the different branches of Christianity. The churches gradually separated over time when they did not agree with the doctrines formulated in the various councils. The Eastern Church accepts only the first three councils. Before the Schism between the West and the Eastern Churches the first eight ecumenical councils were held (from the 4 al 9 1st century AD). They accept the first seven as ecumenical, but they differ in the identity of the eighth. While the Orthodox Christian Church does not generally accept other ecumenical synods after the seventh and eighth, the Catholic Church continues to hold Ecumenical Councils for those bishops in full communion with the Pope.

Anglicans and Lutherans only accept the first four ecumenical councils: the First Council of Nicaea the First Council of Constantinople, the Council of Ephesus and the Council of Chalcedon. The Reformed churches (Calvinist) they only accept the first two: the First Council of Nicaea and the First Council of Constantinople.

The Council of Jerusalem is recognized by all Christian churches, except the anti-Trinitarian ones.

List of Ecumenical Councils

Council of Jerusalem

The Council of Jerusalem is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, who addressed the tension between maintaining Jewish practices in the early Christian community with Christian converts. Even if its decisions are accepted by all Christians and then the definitions of an ecumenical council appear to conform to this one biblical Council, no Christian church calls a simple ecumenical council, my he “apostolic council” O “council of Jerusalem”.

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The first seven ecumenical councils

  • First Council of Nicaea (325) summoned by Emperor Constantine I, he repudiated Arianism and declared that Christ is “of the same substance as the Father”, fixed the date of Easter; declared the doctrine of the Trinity; recognized the primacy of the Rome offices, Alexandria and Antioch and granted Jerusalem a position of honor. He confirmed the Nicean Creed.
  • First Council of Constantinople (381) summoned by Theodosius I, he repudiated Arianism and Macedonianism and declared that Christ is “born of the Father before all time”, affirmed the role of the Holy Spirit, he repudiated Pelagianism and reaffirmed the Nicean Creed.
    This and all the advice that follows are not recognized by the Assyrian Church of the East and by the Protestant Churches..
  • Council of Ephesus (449) proclaimed the Virgin Mary as Theotokos (“Mother of God”), he repudiated Pelagianism and Nestorianism, declared heretics those who did not recognize the doctrine of Theotokos.
    Although initially it was convened as an Ecumenical Council, this advice is not recognized as such from many Christian churches.
  • Council of Chalcedon (451) he repudiated the doctrine of monophysism, he adopted the Creed of Chalcedon, affirmed the two natures in Christ, the human and the divine. He elevated the dioceses of Constantinople and Jerusalem to the rank of Patriarchate. This is also the last advice explicitly recognized by the Anglican Communion.

This and all the advice that follows is rejected by Eastern Orthodoxy and the Anglican and Lutheran Churches.

  • Second Council of Constantinople (553) confirmed doctrines accepted in previous councils, condemned of new Aryan texts, the Nestorians from the monofisiti, enacted the formula Theopaschite.
  • Third Council of Constantinople (680-681) he condemned Monothelism and affirmed that Christ has human and divine will;
    The ecumenical status of this council has been repudiated by the Western churches.
  • Second Council of Nicaea (787) restored the veneration of icons (condemned by the Council of Constantinople V, 754).
    This advice is rejected by some Protestant denominations, who condemn the veneration of icons.

Councils of the Roman Catholic Church

  • IV Council of Constantinople (869-870) ordered the deposition of the patriarch Photius of Constantinople, act not recognized by the Eastern Churches.
    Today, this Council is accepted by the Catholic Church but is rejected by the Council of the Orthodox Christian Church.
  • First Council of the Lateran (1123) summoned by Pope Callixtus II, it was the first to take place in the West. He absolutely forbade priests, deacons, subdeacons to live with concubines or wives and to cohabit with women other than those with whom the Council of Nicaea (can. 3): Mother, the sister, the paternal or maternal aunt. He defended the protection of the families and property of the Crusaders. He declared that the goods and wealth of the Church should belong only to the clergymen and not to the laity.
  • Second Lateran Council (1139) reaffirmed the First Lateran Council and clerical discipline (clothing and celibacy of clergymen).
  • Third Lateran Council (1179) he limited only the cardinals to the papal election, condemned the simony, and introduced the minimum age for ordination (thirty years for the bishops).
  • IV Council of the Lateran (1215) defined the doctrine of transubstantiation, he reaffirmed the primacy of the pope and the discipline of the clergy.
  • First Council of Lyons (1245) summoned by Pope Innocent IV , deposed the Emperor Frederick II (break between Empire and Papacy) and instituted a contribution in support of the Holy Land.
  • Second Council of Lyons (1274) approved the Franciscan and Dominican orders, introduced tithing to support the Crusades, and affirmed the procedures of the conclave.
  • Council of Vienna (1311-1312) dissolved the Order of the Knights Templar. He discussed the problem of heresies and heretics.
    • Council of Pisa (1409) he tried to solve the problem of the division brought about by the Great Western Schism
      The Council is not numbered because it was not convened by a pope and its outcome was repudiated in Constance.
  • Council of Constance (1414-1418) he solved the problem of the Great Western Schism and condemned Jan Hus.
    • Municipality of Siena (1423-1424) addressed the problem of church reform.
      Unnumbered. It was quickly dissolved.
  • Council of Basel, Ferrara and Florence (1431-1445) he addressed the issue of church reform and reunification with the Eastern Churches, but it split into two parts. The Basel Fathers staying in Basel. The fathers of Florence achieved the union with various Eastern Churches and temporarily with the Orthodox Christian Church.
  • Lateran Council V (1512-1514) addressed the issue of church reform.
  • Council of Trent (1545-1563, with interruptions) he addressed the issue of church reform and repudiated Protestantism, he redefined the canon of Scripture by introducing deuterocanonical books, and restored the seven sacraments. He introduced the Bible to the Index of Forbidden Books and strengthened the discipline of the clergy and education.
    Although Protestant delegates are also temporarily present, this and the advice that follows are rejected by the Protestants.

  • First Vatican Council (1870, officially, 1870-1960) was officially announced by Pope Pius IX and defined the primacy of the pope in the church and his infallibility, he repudiated the philosophical currents of rationalism, materialism and atheism. He reinterpreted Scripture and the relationship between faith and reason.
    This and the advice that follows are rejected by the Old Catholic Church.
  • Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) he addressed pastoral and disciplinary issues in the Church and its relationship with the modern world, including liturgy and ecumenism.

The Anti-Trinitarian Churches: they do not accept any Council

Neither the first nor the subsequent councils are recognized by the anti-Trinitarian churches: Unitary, Latter-day Saints, Mormon sayings, and Jehovah's Witnesses, Etc. The leadership of some groups, like Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons it claims divine authority to lead the Church today and sees in ecumenical councils man's misleading attempts to establish divine doctrine.

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