A council (from Latin concilium “council, meeting”) or a synod (from ancient Greek σύνοδος sýnodos “meeting, meeting”) is an assembly of a church at which the episcopal powers, doctrine, direction and sanctification are discussed.
The Latin and Greek names are mostly used synonymously in their original form . Later, in the Western Church, a differentiation developed between the council as an assembly of all bishops of a church ( Second Vatican Council , particular council ) and the more regionally or thematically oriented synod ( Würzburg synod , diocesan synod ). In the non-Roman churches one spoke of an ecumenical synod if it was supraregional and (if possible) included all bishops of Christianity. In the Slavic churches, the masculine form "the synod" ( Holy Synod ) prevailed .
The list of councils and synods contains a list of other councils and synods.
A participant entitled to vote is called a council father or synodal .
According to the theory of conciliarism , the decisions of the councils can, under certain conditions, claim the highest authority to which the presiding bishop or patriarch (in Rome the pope) must bow. The condition for this is that a council is formally correctly convened and must represent all of Christianity.
In the old church , the Greek term Σύνοδος was used throughout .
The first surviving Christian synod is what is known in the West today as the Apostles' Council of Jerusalem , which met around the year 49 and is reported in the New Testament in the Acts of the Apostles ( Acts 15 : 1–29 EU ).
From the second century onwards there were numerous local councils at various levels in which the bishops of a region met to decide on certain questions of doctrine or church structure. These decisions were only valid for the region in question and were not universally valid, unless their decisions were later adopted by ecumenical councils, as the 6th ecumenical council did with regard to some local synods of the 4th century.
In the first millennium there were seven general bishops ' assemblies of the entire church, which today (according to ancient Greek οἰκουμένη oikouménē , [whole] inhabited [ sc. Earth], globe') are called ecumenical councils because they were valid for the entire church. However, there were always churches or groups that did not recognize a council or individual decisions and therefore separated from the general church.
The seven ecumenical councils of the early church were undisputed in the main historical currents of the western and eastern churches and are recognized by the Orthodox , Catholic and many Protestant churches.
- First Council of Nicaea (325)
- First Council of Constantinople (381)
- Council of Ephesus (431)
- Council of Chalcedony (451)
- Second Council of Constantinople (553)
- Third Council of Constantinople (680/681)
- Second Council of Nicaea (787)
The Apostolic Church of the East only recognizes the first two, most ancient oriental churches only the first three councils as ecumenical and therefore binding. In Protestantism, the reception of the Second Nicene is partly controversial.
Later councils, even when representatives of the entire Church actually took part, did not achieve the same unanimity in recognition for internal and external reasons and are only considered ecumenical in the Roman Catholic Church.
In Orthodoxy , the highest decision-making body is the ecumenical council. However, it is not considered infallible per se , because several councils that had described themselves as “ecumenical”, this status was later revoked by another council due to a lack of popular approval. Only the church as a whole is considered infallible, and it remains open in which institutions, bodies or movements this infallibility is expressed.
In addition to the seven first ecumenical councils, the Orthodox Church also recognized the Photianic council of 879 and the Palamitic council of 1351 as ecumenical councils. Most, however, refer to these councils as pan-Orthodox , i.e. affecting all Orthodox churches.
In the Russian Orthodox Church the seat of the church federation in Kiev , from 1326 in Moscow , is called the synod . From 1721 to 1918 the Russian Patriarch was replaced by a Holy Synod , which was under secular control. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is led by the highest body of the church, the Holy Synod, consisting of all the bishops of the church who meet twice a year for a general assembly.
Roman Catholic Church
The understanding of the council and various levels of councils and synods in the Catholic Church are listed under Council (Roman Catholic Church) . Similar to synods, councils are also assemblies of bishops that deliberate on specific topics. In terms of canon law, however, the council ranks above a synod, since the whole of the college of successors to the apostles is assembled at the council .
The last four ecumenical councils according to Roman Catholic counts were:
- Council of Constance (1414-1418)
- Council of Trent (1545–1563)
- First Vatican Council (1870)
- Second Vatican Council (1962–1965)
According to the Catholic view, there were 21 ecumenical councils, with which affiliation was often only clarified years or centuries later. The word ecumenical is not to be understood here in the sense that different denominations hold a joint council, but that council fathers from all over the world (and not just one or a few states) participate within the Catholic Church and the decisions are valid throughout the church .
In the Evangelical Churches, the early church assemblies are called councils, while the current regular (annual or semi-annual) meetings at church district , regional church , EKD or EKS level are called synods . The Graubünden Synod is a special feature, which is purely a professional body to oversee the pastors' administration.
- Nicolaus von Cues : De maioritate auctoritatis sacrorum conciliorum supra auctoritatem papae ("On the primacy of the authority of the holy councils over the authority of the Pope") . 1433.
- Christian Lange: Introduction to the general councils . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2012, ISBN 978-3-534-25059-2 .
- Klaus Schatz : General Councils - Focal Points in Church History . Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2008, ISBN 978-3-506-99492-9 .
- Hubert Jedin : Small Council History , Herder, Freiburg et al. 1978, ISBN 3-451-18537-7 .
- Heinz Wolter: The synods in the imperial territory and in imperial Italy from 916 to 1056. Walter Brandmüller (Hrsg.): Council history. Row A: representations. Schöningh et al. 1988, ISBN 3-506-74687-1 .
- Johannes Grohe (ed.), Magazine " Annuarium Historiae Conciliorum " (since 1969).
- Andreas, Weckwerth (2015): Primacy and collegiality. The Roman bishop and his synods in the 1st millennium. In: Roman quarterly for Christian antiquity and church history (110/2), pp. 175–199.
- Martin Seils: The Ecumenical Council in Lutheran Theology . In: The Councils of Christianity. Ed. V. Hans Jochen Margull. Stuttgart, Evangelisches Verlagswerk 1961, pp. 333–372
- Albert Bondach: Powers of the Local Council in the Russian Orthodox Church (January 24, 2009)
- Alexander Zadornov: Regional Council or Council of a Regional Church? (February 26, 2011)