Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Christian Dogmatics


Chart of all Synods

Copyright © 2004 Thomas Ross Valentine. All rights reserved.


Year(s) Location Orthodox reckoning Issue(s) Heresiarch(s) Champion(s) Summary Important Statements
?48 / 51 Jerusalem not numbered Judaisers   Saint James
Saint Peter
Saint Paul
Saint Barnabas

Described in the Acts of the Apostles [15:6-29]. Led by Saint James (‘the brother of the Lord’), bishop of Jerusalem.

Determined that Gentile converts did not have to embrace Judaism to be Christians.

AD 251 Carthage locals Lapsed Christians
Navatius Saint Cyprian

Set requirements for readmission to Church of those who had lapsed during persecutions.

Declared baptisms by heretics were worthless (no ‘baptisms’ outside the Church).

Required baptism for entry into the Church by those ‘baptised’ by heretics (outside the Church).

Forbade re-baptism of those who had received Church baptism, then fallen into heresy who sought readmission.

AD 252

Reduced requirements for readmission of lapsed who showed serious penance.

Repeated decisions regarding baptism of previous year.

AD 255

Repeated decisions regarding baptism of 251 and 252.

Determined that clerics falling into heresy should be received back into the Church as laymen.

AD 256

Rejected decisions by Pope Stephen regarding ‘baptism’ outside the Church.

Re-affirmed previous decisions regarding baptism.

AD 256

Repeated decisions made earlier in year, rejecting Pope Stephen's teaching.

Declared there are no sacraments outside the Church.

AD circa 300/306 Elvira rejected local      

Imposed celibacy on clergy.

Established canon forbidding converts from heresy to ever become clergy.

AD 314 Ancyra local Lapsed Christians    

First synod following the end of persecutions.

Condemned as liars, those who publicly proclaimed adherence to the national religion (paganism) in order to receive an official document that allowed them to avoid persecution.

Established punishments for these lapsed.

Also established punishments for various types of sexual immorality.

circa AD 315 Neo-Cæsaria local      

Established punishments for various types of sexual immorality.

Established qualifications for clergy.

AD 325 Nicæa (Nicæa I) First Ecumenical (Imperial) Synod Arianism
Arius Saint Athanasius

Condemned the teaching of Arius who claimed the Lord Jesus Christ was created by God, denying His divinity. Virtually all those assembled were horrified upon hearing Arius' teaching, but debate arose over terminology. Despite resistance because it was an unbiblical word, the Fathers embraced the philosophical term homoousios (‘of one essence’) as the only term the Arians were unable to distort into compatibility with their heresy.

Established Symbol of Faith (Nicene Creed).

Determined formula for determining Pascha (Easter).

Condemned mandatory celibacy for all ranks of clergy.

Established regulations on moral issues and church discipline.

Required Paulianists to be baptised upon entry to Church, even if baptised by Paulianists.

Determined prayers on Sundays should be offered standing.

We believe in one God, the Father, almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible;

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten from the Father, only-begotten, that is, from the substance of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one essence with the Father, through Whom all things came into being, things in heaven and things on earth,

Who because of our salvation came down and became incarnate, becoming man, suffered and rose again on the third day, ascended to the heavens, will come to judge the living and the dead;

And in the Holy Spirit.

But as for those who say, There was when He was not, and, Before being born He was not, and that He came into existence out of nothing, or who assert that the Son of God is of a different hypostasis or substance, or is subject to alteration or change — these the Catholic and apostolic Church anathematises.

AD 340 Gangra local schismatics    

Expelled sectarians who promoted schism, condemned marriage, eating of meat, and obedience to lawful authority, who encouraged women to dress as men (clothes and haircuts), parents to abandon children and children to abandon elderly parents.

Condemned fasting on Sunday.

AD 341 Antioch local various    

Reinforced Nicæa I’s ruling on Pascha.

Established regulations regarding clergy, the organisation of the local churches, church discipline, and use of canonical letters (used by travelling Christians as proof of being Christians in good standing).

347 Sardica   various    

Established canons concerning church order and discipline.

Reaffirmed the Symbol of Faith from Nicæa I.

AD 364 Laodicæa local various    

Established canons concerning church order and discipline

AD 381 Constantinople (Constantinople I) Second Ecumenical (Imperial) Synod Macedonianism
Macedonius Saint Gregory the Theologian
Saint Gregory of Nyssa

Condemned Arianism.

Condemned Macedonianism which denied divinity of the Holy Spirit.

Defined the Holy Trinity as one God in Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each fully God of the same essence.

Expanded Symbol of Faith from Nicaea I into what is now commonly labelled ‘Nicene Creed’ but is more properly known as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. This Symbol of Faith has remained the basic proclamation of the Christian Faith.

Condemned Apollinarianism which taught the Lord Jesus Christ possessed the divine Logos in place of a human mind and was therefore fully divine, but not fully human.

Condemned Eunomians (an extreme form of Arianism)

Condemned Eudoxians (semi-Arians)

Condemned Sabellians (who taught the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were three modes of manifestation of the one God, denying the distinction of Three Persons)

Condemned Marcellians (who taught the Logos was an impersonal divine power that issued from God and entered into a relationship with Jesus to make him the Son of God)

Condemned Photinians (who taught that Jesus was a mere man upon whom the Logos rested)

Ranked relative importance of the five patriarchates with Old Rome first and New Rome (Constantinople) second.

Established regulations for church discipline, including standing during prayer on Sundays and the days of Pentecost.

Established manner in which heretics were to be received into the Church

Revised Symbol of Faith from Nicæa:

I believe in one God, Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible: And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God; begotten of the Father before all ages; Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten, not made, of One Essence with the Father, through Whom all things were made: Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from Heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became Man: And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried: And He rose on the third day according to the Scriptures: And ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father: And He is coming again with glory to judge the living and the dead; And His Kingdom will have no end:

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of the Life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son is equally worshipped and glorified, Who spoke by the Prophets:

And in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

I confess one Baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the Resurrection of the Dead; And the life of the Age to come. Amen.

AD 394 Constantinople local      

Established various regulations, including the requirement of at least three bishops to ordain a bishop

AD 419-424 Carthage local Pelagianism
Bishop Aurelius

Established regulations for clergy, including excommunication for clerics lower than bishop who appealed decisions outside of Africa (specifically mentioning ‘across the sea’, i.e. the pope of Rome).

Denied jurisdiction of pope of Rome in African church.

Enumerated canon of Scripture (Old Testament and New Testament).

Set requirements for Donatists received into the Church, including prohibition of rebaptising those baptised as Donatists.

Established canon requiring baptism where proof of previous baptism was not available.

Condemned beliefs of Pelagians: that Adam was created mortal, that infants need not be baptised because they are not subject to the consequences of Adam’s sin, that grace is not needed to avoid sin, and that grace only enables us to recognise sin but does not assist us in avoiding sin.

AD 431 Ephesus Third Ecumenical (Imperial) Synod Nestorianism Nestorius Saint Cyril of Alexandria

Condemned Nestorianism which taught a separation between the Lord Jesus Christ's divinity and humanity. Nestorianism manifested this in the rejection of the traditional term ‘Theotokos’ (literally, ‘God birthgiver’), claiming Mary only gave birth to the Lord’s humanity and should thus be called ‘Christotokos’.

Defined that the Lord Jesus Christ was a single person who was fully God and fully human and that since mother’s give birth to persons, Mary should be known as ‘Theotokos’, thus insisting on the unity of the two natures in the one person of Christ.

Upheld Christology of Saint Cyril of Alexandria.

The Symbol of Faith (Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed) was affirmed and changes to it were forbidden with punishment of deposition for clerics and excommunication for laity prescribed.

Established that the rights of each province should be preserved and inviolate (i.e. bishops from one province have no rights over other provinces).

AD 448 Constantinople local Eutychianism (Monophysitism) Eutyches Saint Flavian

Eutyches is condemned for rejecting the ‘union’ of ‘two natures’ in ‘one person’

AD 449 Ephesus Heretical
(historically known as ‘Robber Council’)

After his condemnation the previous year (see above), Eutyches appeals to Saint Leo the Great of Rome (who sided with Saint Flavian, patriarch of Constantinople) and to Dioscorus, patriarch of Alexandria. (He did not appeal to the patriarch of Antioch, as he had participated in the previous trial of Eutyches and found him guilty of heresy.) In violation of the canons, Dioscorus annulled the sentence of Saint Flavian, and absolved Eutyches. Going further, Eutyches connived to have a synod called in Ephesus in the hope that his accusers would be condemned. Dioscorus presided over the synod.

The synod became forever known in history as the ‘Robber Council’ because it restricted Saint Flavian from presenting his position (his condemnation was already composed before he spoke and supporters of Eutyches inflicted a fierce beating on him and Saint Flavian), barred many of Saint Flavian’s supporters, refused to permit Pope Saint Leo the Great’s representatives to present the pope's opinion, and run in an outrageously high-handed manner by Dioscorus.

The judgements of this synod were a foregone conclusion. Saint Flavian was condemned, beaten, and died shortly thereafter in exile. The belief of ‘two natures’ in ‘one person’ is condemned as heretical.

This synod received no significant acceptance and its judgements were refused by the Church as a whole. Soon after it ended, the intrigues behind it were exposed and pressure for a universal (ecumenical) synod became strong.

AD 451 Chalcedon Fourth Ecumenical (Imperial) Synod Eutychianism (Monophysitism) Eutyches
Saint Leo the Great

Annulled and invalidated 'Robber Council' of 449 in Ephesus.

Condemned Eutyches and Dioscorus.


Affirmed canons of previous three Imperial Synods.

Condemned Monophysitism.

After thorough examination of ‘Tome of Leo’, affirmed it as ‘the faith of the Fathers’.

Affirmed completeness of the two natures of the Lord Jesus Christ: divinity and humanity (perfect God and perfect man).

Condemned Nestorianism and those ‘who divide the one and only-begotten Son’.

Condemned simony, reaffirmed prohibitions of bishops acting outside their territory, reaffirmed New Rome (Constantinople) as second in honour (following Old Rome) of the patriarchates.

Therefore, following the holy Fathers, we all with one voice teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once perfect in Godhead and perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a rational soul and body; homoousios with the Father as regards His Godhead, and at the same time homoousious with us as regards His manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; begotten of the Father before the ages, as regards His Godhead, but yet as regards His manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation in the last days, of Mary the virgin, the Theotokos, one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognised in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person (prosopon) and subsistence (hypostasis), not as parted or separated into two persons (prosopa), but one and the same Son and Only-begotten, the divine Logos, the Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times have spoken concerning Him, and as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and as the Symbol of the Fathers has handed down to us.
AD 529 Orange local (Western) Pelagianism    

Condemned various beliefs of Pelagianism:


humans are unaffected by Adam's sin


a person’s move towards God can begin without grace

an increase of faith can be attained apart from grace

salvation can be attained apart from the Holy Spirit

man’s free will can be restored from its destruction apart from baptism

‘merit’ may precede grace

man can do good and attain salvation without God's help

... we must, under the blessing of God, preach and believe as follows. The sin of the first man has so impaired and weakened free will that no one thereafter can either love God as he ought or believe in God or do good for God's sake, unless the grace of divine mercy has preceded him. ...

According to the catholic faith we also believe that after grace has been received through baptism, all baptized persons have the ability and responsibility, if they desire to labour faithfully, to perform with the aid and cooperation of Christ what is of essential importance in regard to the salvation of their soul. We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema. We also believe and confess to our benefit that in every good work it is not we who take the initiative and are then assisted through the mercy of God, but God himself first inspires in us both faith in him and love for him without any previous good works of our own that deserve reward, so that we may both faithfully seek the sacrament of baptism, and after baptism be able by his help to do what is pleasing to him.

The complicated background to Constantinople II

Large areas of the Empire were under the influence of Monophysitism. The orthodox emperor, Justinian, sought to placate the Monophysites who rejected as Nestorian heretics Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrus, and Ibas of Edessa, issued an edict condemning the person and writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia, certain writings of Theodoret of Cyrus, and the letter of Ibas to Maris. The Christology of Justinian’s edict was perfectly orthodox.

Since the three writers were long dead and their writings had not been condemned by the Synod of Chalcedon, there was great reluctance to agree to Justinian’s edict. Moreover, there was no heresy arising from these writings and condemning them was to side with the Monophysites who were opposed to Chalcedon. After not a little coercion, the bishops in the East did agree with Justinian and condemned the three writers.

Pope Vigilus was unwilling to accept Justinian's edict for the same reasons it had been resisted in the East. Justinian summoned Vigilus to Constantinople. Due to learning more about the writings condemned by Justinian’s edict and/or persuasion/coercion of Justinian, Vigilus agreed to accept the edict. This about-face prompted a synod in North Africa to excommunicate Vigilus, for the metropolitans of Milan and Aquileia to break communion with Rome, and for complaints to be issued by the bishops of Gaul. Faced with such strong opposition in the West, Vigilus withdrew his agreement to Justinian’s edict. This second about-face by Vigilus created great confusion and compelled Justinian to call an Ecumenical (Imperial) Synod. Initially, Vigilus rejected the legitimacy of the synod, but later relented, accepted the condemnation of the three writers, and was reconciled to the Church.

AD 553 Constantinople (Constantinople II) Fifth Ecumenical (Imperial) Synod Monophysitism
Emperor Justinian

Condemned the person and writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia, who had been Nestorius’ teacher and who taught the Logos was a different God than the one called Christ and who taught the Lord Jesus Christ was troubled by desires of human flesh and passions of the human soul.

Condemned writings of Thedoret of Cyrus which rejected Saint Cyril of Alexandria’s Christology.

Condemned Ibas of Edessa’s letter to Maris the Persian for its Nestorian tone.

Condemned writings of Diodorus of Tarsus as Nestorian.

Repeated condemnations from previous synods of Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinaris, Nestorius, and Eutyches.

Condemned Origen, Didymus, and Evagrius for teaching the pre-existence of souls, re-incarnation, the ultimate salvation of demons, that heavenly bodies possessed souls, and other errors.

No canons were produced by this Synod — see entry for AD 692

AD 589 Toledo (Spain) local (Western)      

In an effort to combat Arianism in Spain by making the Son like the Father in all things (specifically, being a source of the Holy Spirit’s procession although this subordinated the Holy Spirit), added the additional phrase ‘and the Son’ (the Filioque) to the Nicene-Constantinoplitan Creed despite declarations of previous Imperial Synods that no changes were to be made in perpetuity. It was this belief in a ‘double procession’ of the Holy Spirit that led to the eventual separation between Latins (papal religion) in the West and Orthodoxy in the East.

AD 680-681 Constantinople (Constantinople III) Sixth Ecumenical (Imperial) Synod Monothelitism Sergius
Pope Honorius

Condemned Monothelitism (a belief that the Lord Jesus Christ had only one will and one energy

Condemned as Monothelite heretics Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, and Peter (Patriarchs of Constantinople); Pope Honorius; Patriarch Cyrus of Alexandria, and others.

Affirmed that the Lord Jesus Christ, though but one person, after His incarnation possessed two natural wills and two natural energies, just as He possessed two natures.

Embraced the teachings of Saint Maximus the Confessor

No canons were produced by this Synod — see entry for AD 692

AD 692 Constantinople
aka ‘in Trullo’ (literally ‘under the dome’) because of the building where held
Called ‘Quinsext’ or ‘Penthekte’ (‘fifth-sixth’) because it was a summation of the Fifth & Sixth Ecumenical Synods The lack of canons from the Fifth & and Sixth Ecumenical Synods    

Called by Emperor to promulgate canons necessary to correcting issues still outstanding from the previous Synods.

Professed faith in all the previous Ecumenical Synods and anathematised those who did not ‘hold and embrace’ the dogmas taught by these Synods.

Prohibited ordination of man married more than once or married to previously married woman and ordered deposition of any clergy discovered to be guilty of same or marrying after ordination (although approving marriage before ordination to diaconate or priesthood and ordering that deacons or priests who separated from his wife to be deposed).

Declared the patriarch of New Rome (Constantinople) should have equal privileges as the patriarch of Old Rome.

Established monastic regulations.

Enacted canon permitting only the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified (a vespers service where communion is received from that which was previously consecrated) on days of Lent because these are days of fasting (Saturdays, Sundays, and the Feast of the Annunciation excluded).

Enacted canons regarding fasting (prohibition of fasting on Saturdays or Sundays, except Holy Saturday; prohibition of eggs and cheese).

Enacted canon mandating excommunication for one week for laymen administering the Divine Mysteries when a bishop, priest, or deacon present.

Condemned soothsaying, fortune-telling, casting of spells, superstition, etc.

Prohibited marriage to heretics.

Made assisting in abortion or having abortion equivalent to murder.

Established procedures for accepting heretics into the Church.

AD 754 Constantinople Heretical      

After many years of persecution by the Iconoclast Emperor Leo III and his son, the Iconoclast Emperor Constantine V, a council was called to ‘determine’ if images were proper. The patriarchates of Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem refused to participate. The bishops who were compelled to attend, accepted the heresy of Iconoclasm under pressure from the emperor. This false council anathematised Saint John of Damascus and Saint Germanus of Constantinople for idolatry of images.

AD 787 Nicæa (Nicæa II) Seventh Ecumenical (Imperial) Synod Iconoclasm    

The decisions of the false council of 754 were never accepted by the faithful and was resisted by the monasteries (despite fierce persecution from the government). Upon the death of the Iconoclast Emperor Leo IV (son of Constantine V, grandson of Leo III) and the beginning of the regency of Empress Irene, the reign of Iconoclasm came to an end. This Synod:

Annulled the false council of 754 and condemned Iconoclasm.

Affirmed veneration (but not adoration, which was for God alone) of images.

Germanus and John of Damascus proclaimed saints.

Condemned simony.

Decreed that those secretly keeping Jewish customs (e.g. keeping the Sabbath) but pretending to be Christians should live as Jews openly, but be excluded from the Church.

Established monastic regulations.

We define that the holy icons, whether in colour, mosaic, or some other material, should be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on the sacred vessels and liturgical vestments, on the walls, furnishings, and in houses and along the roads, namely the icons of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, that of our Lady the Theotokos, those of the venerable angels and those of all saintly people. Whenever these representations are contemplated, they will cause those who look at them to commemorate and love their prototype. We define also that they should be kissed and that they are an object of veneration and honour [timitiki proskynisis], but not of real worship [latreia], which is reserved for Him Who is the subject of our faith and is proper for the Divine Nature. The veneration accorded to an icon is in effect transmitted to the prototype; he who venerates the icon, venerates in it the reality for which it stands.
AD 794 Frankfurt western — heretical (local)      

Opposed decisions of Nicæa II, denying it had been an ecumenical Synod.

Condemned Pope Hadrian for his support of Nicæa II.

Worship of images, under the terms worship, adoration, and service of any kind, forbidden.

Destruction of images opposed; the synod deemed them useful as decorations or tools for instructing the illiterate

AD 809 Aachen western — heretical (local)      

Decreed belief in Filioque as necessary for salvation

AD 861 Constantinople local      

Established regulations for monasticism, including necessity of obtaining local bishop’s permission to build monastery.

Condemned castration.

Established regulations for clergy.

AD 867 Constantinople        

Reacting to a what was initially a purely administrative conflict between Old Rome and New Rome (Constantinople), Saint Photius convened a synod. However, the synod acquired doctrinal undertones when Frankish missionaries in Bulgaria, acting as Pope Nicholas' emissaries, introduced the Filioque in the Symbol of Faith (Creed) and condemned those who retained the Symbol of Faith in its original purity; condemned the traditional use of leavened bread in the Eucharist and teaching the innovation of unleavened bread; and condemned the marriage of clergy. The synod included archbishops of Treves, Cologne and Ravenna from the West.

Excommunicated and anathematised Pope Nicolas for claiming (in 865, first pope to do so) the Pope had authority ‘over all the earth, that is, over every Church.’

AD 869-870 Constantinople Heretical      

Only 12 bishops attended at first, and attendance never exceeded 103. The legates of Pope Adrian II presided. Photius had already been condemned, without a hearing, at a Roman synod. At Constantinople his defence was cut short, and when he refused to sign his own condemnation, he was excommunicated. The result of these synods was to intensify the bitterness between East and West. Not regarded as Ecumenical; by Latins until 11th century (then named Eighth Ecumenical Council by Vatican), it has never been accepted by the Orthodox.

AD 879-880 Constantinople (Constantinople IV) Eighth Ecumenical (Imperial) Synod1      

Resolved scandals between East and West regarding Bulgaria.

Expelled those who did not recognise Nicæa II as Seventh Ecumenical Council.

Outlawed and repudiated local synods of Rome and Constantinople against Saint Photius.

Established that the Symbol of Faith from Constantinople I (the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed) was to be forever ‘un-innovated’ and ‘immutable’.

Required those excommunicated by Rome to be treated as such by Constantinople and vice-versa.

This synod meets all the criteria of being ‘Ecumenical’: it was convened by order of the Emperor and it was approved by the patriarchates of Old Rome, New Rome (Constantinople), Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem. Yet, it is not accepted as ‘Ecumenical’ by the Latins (for it condemns them) nor by Westernising Orthodox. It is accepted by traditional Orthodox Christians.

If anyone, however, dares to rewrite and call Rule of Faith some other exposition besides that of the sacred Symbol which has been spread abroad from above by our blessed and holy Fathers even as far as ourselves, and to snatch the authority of the confession of those divine men and impose on it his own invented phrases and put this forth as a common lesson to the faithful or to those who return from some kind of heresy, and display the audacity to falsify completely the antiquity of this sacred and venerable Horos with illegitimate words, or additions, or subtractions, such a person should, according to the vote of the holy and Ecumenical Synods, which has been already acclaimed before us, be subjected to complete defrocking if he happens to be one of the clergymen, or be sent away with an anathema if he happens to be one of the lay people.

We regard, therefore, as enemies of God and of the truth those who think differently as compared to [the Symbol of Faith]. If one dares to rewrite another Symbol besides this one, or add to it, or subtract from it, or to remove anything from it, and to display the audacity to call it a Rule, he will be condemned and thrown out of the Christian Confession. For to subtract from, or to add to, the holy and consubstantial and undivided Trinity shows that the confession we have always had to this day is imperfect. It condemns the Apostolic Tradition and the doctrine of the Fathers. If one, then having come to such a point of mindlessness as to dare do what we have said above, and set forth another Symbol and call it a Rule, or to add to or subtract from the one which has been handed down to us by the first great, holy and Ecumenical Synod of Nicæa, let him be Anathema.

1082 Constantinople local   John Italus  

Condemned those who seek to discover exactly how the Word was joined to His human substance

Condemned various Greek (pagan) ideas:

the destruction of the soul after death

that creation is eternal or immutable

the denial of miracles of Christ, the Theotokos, and all His saints

thinking Greek philosophy true

that creation is not the result of God's free will

the pre-existence of souls

that creation is created ex nihilo

that hell is temporary or that all of creation will be restored

that the Kingdom of Heaven is temporary.

1123 Rome western — heretical      

Recognised only by Vatican; called Lateran I / Ninth Ecumenical Council by Vatican: under papal control council gave papacy a great deal more power.

1139 Rome western — heretical      

Recognised only by Vatican; called Lateran II / Tenth Ecumenical Council by Vatican: under papal control council gave papacy even more power; adopted measures against antipope.

1157 Constantinople (Synod of Blachernæ;) local2   Basilakes

Condemned those who say:

Christ offered His sacrifice to the Father alone, and not to himself and to the Holy Spirit

the sacrifice of the Divine Liturgy is only figuratively the sacrifice of Christ's body and blood

the sacrifice in the Liturgy is not one and the same as that of Christ on the cross

men were reconciled to the Son through the incarnation and to the Father through the passion

the deification of Christ’s humanity destroyed his human nature

Christ’s deified human nature is not worthy of worship;

since the human nature of Christ was swallowed up into Divinity, His passion was an illusion

the characteristics of Christ’s human nature (creaturehood, circumscription, mortality, and blameless passions) exist only hypothetically, when one considers Christ’s human nature in abstraction, and not really and truly.

1166 Constantinople local   Constantine the Bulgarian  

Condemned those who maintain that ‘My father is greater than I’ refers only to Christ’s human nature, taken in abstraction and who explain the statement in various ways, one of which being that ‘My father is greater than I’ refers to the fact that Christ’s human nature retained its properties in the hypostatic union.

1179 Rome western — heretical      

Recognised only by Vatican; called Lateran III / Eleventh Ecumenical Council by Vatican: papacy even more power; adopted measures against Waldenses and Albigensians; instituted requirement that a two-thirds majority of cardinals necessary to elect pope.

These Latin councils need to be understood against the Investiture Controversy and the Gregorian Revolution (named for Pope Gregory who began it) which sought to strengthen the power of the papacy against secular powers.

1215 Rome western — heretical      

Recognised only by Vatican; called Lateran IV / Twelfth Ecumenical Council by Vatican: first official use of Scholastic term transubstantiation; adopted measures against Cathari and Albigensians; defined official books of Bible for followers of pope of Old Rome.

1245 Lyons western — heretical      

Recognised only by Vatican; called Lyons I / Thirteenth Ecumenical Council by Vatican: approved papal power over secular powers, including depostion of Frederick II of so-called Holy Roman Empire.

1274 Lyons Failed ‘reunion council’      

Motivated by a desire of popes to gain recognition of primacy and by a desire of emperors to receive material and martial aide. Emperor Michael basically compelled the few Orthodox bishops to rubber-stamp papal claims. Rejected throughout the East and regarded as meaningless. Emperor Michael’s sister stated: ‘Better my brother’s empire should perish than the purity of the Orthodox faith.’ Repudiated by Michael’s successor.

Regarded as Lyons II / Fourteenth Ecumenical Council by Vatican.

1285 Constantinople local Procession of the Holy Spirit    

Clarified the teaching on the Holy Spirit’s origin

It is recognised that the very Paraclete shines and manifests Itself eternally by the intermediary of the Son, as light shines from the sun by the intermediary of rays ...; but that does not mean that It comes into being through the Son or from the Son.
1311-1312 Vienne western — heretical      

Recognised only by Vatican; called Vienne / Fifteenth Ecumenical Council by Vatican. Suppressed the Knights Templar and enacted even more reforms that strengthened papacy.

1341 Constantinople Ninth Ecumenical (Imperial) Synod3
(the three separate synods are regarded as a whole because they dealt with the same issue)
Augustinianism Barlaam the Calabrian
Saint Gregory Palamas

Condemned Augustinianism as presented by Barlaam the Calabrian and Acindynus.

Rejected teaching that the attributes of God are identical with the essence.

Condemned those who think the light of Christ’s Transfiguration was a created apparition.

Condemned those who do not believe the divine light is the uncreated grace and energy of God which proceeds from God's essence.

Condemned those who do not recognise the undivided distinction between God’s essence and God’s energy.

Condemned those who deny the energy of God is uncreated.

Condemned those who say the distinction between energy and essence implies that God is not simple and uncompounded.

Condemned those claim the term ‘Godhead’ should only be applied to the essence of God, and not to the divine energy.

Condemned those who maintain the Divine Essence can be communicated.

Rejected Augustinian view of revelation by created symbols and illumined vision.

1414-1418 Constance western      

Settled the division of multiple claimants to papacy by deposing all three men claiming to be pope and electing a new pope. Held that a general synod or council had higher authority than pope.

Labelled Sixteenth Ecumenical Council by pope after removing claims that a general synod or council had higher authority than pope.

1431-1437 Basel western      

Established that the Synod had higher authority than the Pope, but conciliar power was again limited when the pope declared the Council of Basel heretical.

1437-1439 Ferrara western — heretical      

A rival synod to that of Basel.

1439-1442 Florence Failed reunion council      

Motivated by a desire of popes to gain recognition of primacy and by a desire of emperors to receive material and martial aide. Primary focus: Filioque. Ended with most Orthodox bishops accepting addition of Filioque, claims of papal primacy, and accepting Latin notion of Purgatory. Upon return to East, almost all bishops renounced ‘agreement’ which had been forced on them by Emperor John.

Soundly rejected by Orthodox faithful throughout Roman Empire and Slavic areas.

Officially repudiated by Constantinople Patriarchate in 1472.

Served as model for Roman Catholicism's Uniates.

Recognised by Vatican as Seventeenth Ecumenical Council

1442-1445 Rome
1484 Constantinople Pan-Orthodox Synod
Called itself ‘ecumenical’ (all four patriarchs in attendance)
Council of Florence
Reception of Latins

Condemned Council of Florence

Condemned Filioque

Determined that ‘Latin converts to Orthodoxy should be received into the Church only by Chrismation and by signing an appropriate Statement (Libellus) of Faith which would include denunciation of Latin errors.’

Composed Acolouthy (Service) for the Reception of Latins into the Orthodox Church

1512-1517 Rome western — heretical      

Labelled Lateran V / Eighteenth Ecumenical Council by Vatican. Claimed pope superior to Ecumenical Council; made official papal teaching on Indulgences.

1545-1563 Trent western — heretical      

Labelled Nineteenth Ecumenical Council by Vatican. Largely a reaction to Protestantism, issuing a great number of decrees regarding doctrinal matters, incl. Augustinian view of so-called original sin, belief in Purgatory, Indulgences, supremacy of pope over all Christianity, etc.

1583 Jerusalem Pan-Orthodox Synod Various Latin beliefs    

Condemned those who do not believe the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone in essence, and from Father and Son in time

Condemned belief that the Lord Jesus Christ used unleavened bread at the Last Supper

Condemned belief in Purgatory

Condemned belief that the pope, rather than the Lord Jesus Christ is head of the Church

Condemned use of the Gregorian calendar and its new Paschalion

Re-affirmed adherence to the decisions of Nicæa I (AD 325).

1642 Iasi (Romania) local      

Re-affirmed as ‘genuine parts of scripture’ 1 Esdras (3 Esdras in the Vulgate), Tobit, Judith, three books of the Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Baruch, and the Epistle of Jeremiah.

Approved revised ‘Confession of Peter of Moghila’ corrected for various Latin errors including purgatory, the claim that the change in the eucharistic bread and wine occurs at the ‘words of institution’, etc.

1672 Jerusalem Pan-Orthodox Synod   Cyril Lukaris  

Condemned Calvinism of Cyril Lukaris

Re-affirmed procession of the Holy Spirit from Father alone.

Condemned ‘justification through faith alone’.

Explicitly lists Wisdom of Solomon, Judith, Tobit, The History of the Dragon, Susanna, Maccabees, and Sirach as ‘genuine parts of Scripture’.

Denied unregenerate man is totally depraved.

We believe a man to be not simply justified through faith alone, but through faith which works through love, that is to say, through faith and works. ... But we regard works not as witnesses certifying our calling, but as being fruits in themselves, through which faith becomes efficacious, and as in themselves meriting, through the Divine promises, that each of the faithful may receive what is done through his own body, whether it is good or bad.
1722 Constantinople local Purgatory    

Condemned the innovation of purgatory

We the godly, following the truth and turning away from such innovations, confess and accept two places for the souls of the dead, paradise and hell, for the righteous and sinners, as the holy Scripture teaches us. We do not accept a third place, a purgatory, by any means, since neither Scripture nor the holy Fathers have taught us any such thing. However, we believe these two places have many abodes ...

None of the teachers of the Church have handed down or taught such a purgatory, but they all speak of one single place of punishment, hades, just as they teach about one luminous and bright place, paradise. But both the souls of the holy and the righteous go indisputably to paradise and those of the sinners go to hades, of whom the profane and those who have sinned unforgivably are punished forever and those who have offended forgivably and moderately hope to gain freedom through the unspeakable mercy of God. For on behalf of such souls, that is of the moderately and forgivably sinful, there are in the Church prayers, supplications, liturgies, as well as memorial services and almsgiving, that those souls may receive favour and comfort. Thus when the Church prays for the souls of those who are lying asleep, we hope there will be comfort for them from God, but not through fire and purgatory, but through divine love for mankind, whereby the infinite goodness of God is seen.

1727 Constantinople local Eucharist teachings    

Condemned innovations of unleavened bread

Condemned administration of Holy Communion when not given as both bread and wine


Note: Some mistakenly (or deliberately) mistranslate ‘metabole’ — substituting ‘transubstantiation’ in place of its proper and literal meaning, ‘change’, thereby attempting to make Orthodox teaching appear identical to that of the Latins.

It is right to believe and confess that the most mystic and all-holy rite and Eucharist of the holy Liturgy and bloodless sacrifice, which is for a memorial of Christ our God voluntarily sacrificed on our behalf, is celebrated in the following way. Leavened bread is offered and wine together with warm water is placed in the holy cup, and they are supernaturally changed, the bread into that life-giving body of the Lord and the wine into His precious blood, by the all-holy Spirit by means of the prayer and invocation of the priest which depends on the power of the words of the Lord.

Not that the consecration is effected by the words ‘Take, eat,’ etc., or by the words ‘Drink ye all of it,’ etc., as the Latins think; for we have been taught that the consecration takes place at the prayer of the priest and at the words which he utters, namely, ‘Make this bread the precious body of Thy Christ, and that which is in this cup the precious blood of Thy Christ, changing them by Thy Holy Spirit,’ as the most glorious Apostles and Fathers filled with the Spirit who compiled the holy liturgies explained and handed down, and as this tradition of their divine teaching has come to us and to the Holy Church of Christ, and as also is clearly shown by the example of the Lord Himself, who first prayed and then commanded His Apostles, ‘Do this for My memorial.’

Therefore we acknowledge that at the invocation of the priest that ineffable mystery is consecrated, and the living and with-God-united body itself of our Savior and His blood itself are really and substantially present, and that the whole without being in any way impaired is eaten by those who partake and is bloodlessly sacrificed. And we believe without any doubt that in the reception and communion of this, even though it be in one kind only, the whole and complete Christ is present; nevertheless according to the ancient tradition which has prevailed in the Catholic Church we have received that Communion is made by all the faithful, both clergy and laity, individually in both kinds, and not the laity in one kind and the priests in both, as is done in the innovation which the Latins have wrongly made.

As an explanatory and most accurately significant declaration of this change of the bread and the wine into the body of the Lord itself and His blood the faithful ought to acknowledge and receive the word metabole, which the Catholic Church as a whole has used and receives as the most fitting statement of this Mystery. Moreover they ought to reject the use of unleavened bread as an innovation of late date, and to receive the holy rite in leavened bread, as had been the custom from the first in the Catholic Church of Christ.

1755 Constantinople local Baptism
Reception of converts

Decreed that no Westerners — Latin or Protestant — had sacraments and could only be admitted into the Orthodox Catholic Church through Baptism

Just three years ago, the question arose: When heretics come over to us, are their baptisms acceptable, given that these are administered contrary to the tradition of the holy Apostles and divine Fathers, and contrary to the custom and ordinance of the Catholic and Apostolic Church? We, who by divine mercy were raised in the Orthodox Church and who adhere to the canons of the sacred Apostles and divine Fathers, recognise only one Church, our holy catholic and apostolic Church. It is her Mysteries, and consequently her Baptism, that we accept. On the other hand, we abhor, by common resolve, all rites not administered as the Holy Spirit commanded the sacred Apostles, and as the Church of Christ performs to this day. For they are the inventions of depraved men, and we regard them as strange and foreign to the whole Apostolic tradition. Therefore, we receive those who come over to us from them as unholy and un-baptised. ... we follow the Second (canon 7) and Penthekte (Canon 95) holy Ecumenical Synods, which order us to receive as unbaptised those aspirants to Orthodoxy who were not baptised with three immersions and emersions, and in each immersion did not loudly invoke one of the divine hypostases, but were baptised in some other fashion.

We too, therefore, adhere to these divine and sacred decrees, and we reject and abhor baptisms belonging to heretics. For they disagree with and are alien to the divine Apostolic dictate. They are useless waters, as St. Ambrose and St. Athanasius the Great said. They give no sanctification to such as receive them, nor avail at all to the washing away of sins. We receive those who come over to the Orthodox faith, who were baptised without being baptised, as being unbaptised, and without danger we baptise them in accordance with the Apostolic and synodical Canons, upon which Christ’s holy and apostolic and catholic Church, the common Mother of us all, firmly relies.

1819 Constantinople local      

Endorsed the Kollyvades monks’ insistence on frequent reception of Holy Communion

Endorsed the Kollyvades monk’s teaching of the empirical experience of hesychasm against metaphysical speculations and rationalism.

1838 Constantinople local      

Resulted in the publication of the ‘Encyclical of the Synod in Constantinople in 1838: Against the Latin Innovations’

1869-1870 Vatican western — heretical      

Labelled Vatican I / Twentieth Ecumenical Council by Vatican. Defined papal primacy and papal infallibility. Suspended council due to gathering Italian forces outside Vatican (Papal States having already rejected papal control and joined new country of Italy).

1872 Constantinople local Phyletism    

Condemned the organisation of the Church along ethnic (racial) lines in the same geographical area as heretical

Condemned racism

1895 Constantinople Pan-Orthodox      

Resulted in publication of Patriarchal Encyclical of 1895

1923 Constantinople Inter-Orthodox Congress      

Authorised local churches to use the Revised Julian calendar whilst maintaining the traditional Paschalion.

1959-1965 Vatican western — heretical      

Labelled Vatican II / Twenty-first Ecumenical Council by Vatican. Officially closed Vatican I, issued numerous documents aimed at reforming Roman Catholic religion; instituted departure from traditional pieties.




Below are some of the many proofs that Orthodox Christianity has more than the Seven Ecumenical Synods. There are three main factors why the later synods have somewhat lost (in the awareness of many Orthodox Christians) their status as Ecumenical.

  1. Under the Ottomans, the printing of Orthodox liturgical books was prohibited. The only way to print such materials was to have them printed in the West and Venice tended to be the location of choice. However, in the West, including Venice, the Latins censored the manuscripts before they were printed and expunged things they did not like such as the Eighth and Ninth Ecumenical Synods and information on St Mark Eugenikos and St Gregory Palamas. St Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain's collection of the Canons (the Pedalion, known in English as The Rudder) had Latin notes interpolated throughout to such a degree that St Nikodimos cried when he received the printed books because of the horrible distortion of the Orthodox Faith.

  2. Under the Westernising policies of Peter the Not-so-Great and his successors, Jesuits took over the educational system in Russia and eliminated things unfavourable to the papal religion just as the book censors had done to St Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain.

  3. Some Orthodox Christians, in the hope of future reconciliation with the Vatican, have eschewed ennumerating Ecumenical Synods after the Seventh even whilst embracing their teachings.

1 The Synod of 879 has long been recognised by Orthodox Christians as the Eighth Ecumenical Synod. The famous canonist, Theodore Balsamon (last half 11th century), counted this Synod as the Eighth Ecumenical Synod. Saint Mark of Ephesus (1392-1444), Saint Neilos of Rhodes, Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki, and others have also recognised this synod as 'ecumenical'. The general/ecumenical synods of the mid-thirteenth century also counted the synod of 879-880 as ecumenical. The Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs (1848) repeatedly refers to this eighth ecumenical synod. Father George Metallinos, Father John Romanides, and Father George Dragas (all highly respected theologians) attest to this being the eighth ecumenical synod. The Tomos Charas (Ôüìïò ×áñᾶò) of Patriarch Dositheos (1641-1707) also labels this the Eighth Ecumenical Synod. In an interview, published in Divine Ascent: A Journal of Orthodox Faith (Vol. 1, Number 2; pp. 59-60), Father George Metallinos said:

Traditionally, the Holy Fathers brought three main problems to the council: issues concerning the Trinity, issues concerning Christology, or issues concerning the grace of God and man's salvation. (Of the nine Ecumenical Synods of the Orthodox Church, the Eighth (879-880) and the Ninth (1341) dealt with these problems.

See also the article by Father George Dragas.

2 Gennadius Scholarius argued that, although this synod was local in externals and thus lacked ecumenicity (because the West was not represented), it was ecumenical for the truth it taught:

I receive with all my heart the holy and great synod that condemned the Latinser Beccus [e.g. the Synod of Blachernæ in Constantinople/New Rome, 1285 — ed.], and firmly believe it to be ecumenical, since the absence of the West does not remove its ecumenicity. ... Note how the Council of Florence differs from that which met in Constantinople against Beccus [1285]. The latter agrees completely with the faith of the Ecumenical Synods, both with the Eighth [the Synod of Constantinople, 879-880] and the rest, while Florence disagrees with them all, with both that one and the rest. In Constantinople, the patriarch of Alexandria was present, and the other patriarchs agreed with and approved of the result as a sound and lawful decision. [from Gennadius' second treatise on the procession of the Holy Spirit]

3 The Synods of 1341 through 1351 that dealt with hesychasm and the teaching of Saint Gregory Palamas and the monks of Mt Athos has long been recognised by Orthodox Christians as the Ninth Ecumenical Synod. Publications referring to these Synods as the Ninth Ecumenical Synod were censored by Latins in Venice and by Jesuit educators in Russia (see introduction to the notes).



Article published in English on: 13-1-2010.

Last update: 13-1-2010.