Question Number 551:

The Orthodox church is very clear on its unity through the recognition of the first 7 Ecumenical councils. However, what is not so clear is that after the first 7 Ecumenical Councils there were many local synods as well as Pan-Orthodox councils.Why is it so difficult to find accurate information on these post schism councils. I have gone to all the Patriarical websites and have not been able to locate any of these so called local councils or the content of them. I have found them on some independent sites but doubt the authenticity.And the rudder is very difficult for a Lay person to navigate through. Where can I find this information and why is it kept so secret?

ANSWER:

Indeed, only the first seven ecumenical councils are universal ly recognized among (Eastern) Orthodox Christians. There are two ways to think about ecumenical council: (1) as authoritative methods to resolve dogmatic controversies in the Roman Empire (2) as a means by which Orthodox Christians (and local Churches) are represented by their bishops and afterwards receive (or reject) the dogmatic decisions of their representative. The main point is that a council is not instantly recognized as authoritative on the basis of the authority of the participants. Instead, a council (i.e. its dogmatic teachings) may eventually become universally received and recognized by the faithful as a permanent and accurate witness to the Christian Faith. In spite of occasional promotions of two other councils (eighth and ninth) by various ecclesiastical authorities, only the 7 councils are universally recognized as ecumenical in the second way described above. Only the proposed "9th" council is post-1054, but it is not post-Florence which is a more realistic date for the permanent schism between East and West. The minutes of the eighth proposed council of 879-880 (proposed as 8th in the Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs of 1848) are not available in English. The proposed 9th council is the Fifth Council of Constantinople (1341-1351). It is unlikely that these councils will be formally recognized but their teachings are consistent with the broader and permanent life of Orthodox Christianity.
This information is not secret, it is quite public, but in fact very few Orthodox theologians are actively promoting the recognition of these two councils and willing to invest the time needed to translate and publish all the primary sources from the Greek.
Finally, there are local councils or synods such as Jassy and Jerusalem which are in no way considered ecumenical or having permanent doctrinal authority.

Answered on 5/05/2010 by Fr Laurent

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