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What is a Church Council?

     A church council is when church leaders (the bishop of Rome and other bishops from around the world) discuss important matters in the church: things like clarifying our beliefs, how to best govern, and how believers should live out the faith. 

     These councils are also called “ecumenical councils” because they involve the whole church (“ecumenical” means “whole”). These are different from “local councils” (called synods), which only involve church leaders from a certain region discussing matters affecting only that region.     

     Having an ecumenical council is not a common event: In Catholicism’s 2000-year history, we recognize 22 ecumenical councils.  On the other hand, we’ve had thousands of synods. 

About this list:

Each week, I’ll add a new council to the list. Each explanation will include:

a) The main issue(s) the council wanted to address.

b) The resolution the council came to, with a brief explanation of the reason for their decision

c) A link to the actual text of the council


The Issue: If someone comes to believe in Jesus, and if Jesus was the Jewish Savior, does that mean the new believer has to also follow the Jewish Law?

The Resolution: No, new converts do not have to follow the Jewish Law.  Since we are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, there is no need to put a burden on new converts that not even Jewish people were good at completing (see Acts 15:11-12).

The text:  This council is recorded in the New Testament (Acts Chapter 15).  The original apostles were the ones who conducted this council.

2) First Council of Nicaea

The Issue: What's Jesus's relationship to the Father?  Is the Father "greater" than Jesus?  Did the Father "create" the Son before he became a human being?


The Resolution: The Son is equal to the Father because they are both God. The council uses the term of the same "substance": the same way a human father is of the same "substance" as his human son, or an animal father is of the same "substance" as his offspring.  Because they are both God, the Son was never created (the council uses the term "begotten, not made" to describe how both the Father and Son share their same "God substance").  


The text: The first part of the text deals with our beliefs about these questions about Jesus.  The rest of the text refers to different church practices.  Read the document here:,_Concilia_Oecumenica,_Documenta_Omnia,_EN.pdf

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