A synod ( // ) is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. The word synod comes from the Greek σύνοδος (sýnodos) meaning "assembly" or "meeting", and it is synonymous with the Latin word concilium meaning "council". Originally, synods were meetings of bishops, and the word is still used in that sense in Catholicism, Oriental Orthodoxy and Eastern Orthodoxy. In modern usage, the word often refers to the governing body of a particular church, whether its members are meeting or not. It is also sometimes used to refer to a church that is governed by a synod.
A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight.
Oriental Orthodoxy is the communion of Christian churches that adheres to Miaphysite Christology and theology, with 60 to 70 million members worldwide. As one of the oldest religious institutions in the world, it has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Armenia, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and parts of the Middle East and India. An Eastern Christian communion of autocephalous churches, its bishops are equal by virtue of episcopal ordination, and its doctrines can be summarized in that the communion recognizes the validity of only the first three ecumenical councils.
Sometimes the phrase "general synod" or "general council" refers to an ecumenical council. The word synod also refers to the standing council of high-ranking bishops governing some of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches. Similarly, the day-to-day governance of patriarchal and major archiepiscopal Eastern Catholic Churches is entrusted to a permanent synod.
An ecumenical council is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice in which those entitled to vote are convoked from the whole world (oikoumene) and which secures the approbation of the whole Church.
Autocephaly is the status of a hierarchical Christian Church whose head bishop does not report to any higher-ranking bishop. The term is primarily used in Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches. The status has been compared with that of the churches (provinces) within the Anglican Communion.
The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the second-largest Christian church, with approximately 260 million baptised members. It operates as a communion of autocephalous churches, each governed by its bishops in local synods, although roughly half of Eastern Orthodox Christians live in Russia. The church has no central doctrinal or governmental authority analogous to the Bishop of Rome, but the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is recognised by all as primus inter pares of the bishops. As one of the oldest surviving religious institutions in the world, the Eastern Orthodox Church has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, and the Near East.
In Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches, synods of bishops are meetings of bishops within each autonomous Church and are the primary vehicle for the election of bishops and the establishment of inter-diocesan ecclesiastical laws.
A sobor (Church Slavonic: съборъ, "assembly") is a formal gathering or council of bishops together with other clerical and lay delegates representing the church to deal with matters of faith, morality, rite, and canonical and cultural life.The synod in the Western churches is similar, but it is distinguished by being usually limited to an assembly of bishops.
Clergy are formal leaders within established religions. Their roles and functions vary in different religious traditions, but usually involve presiding over specific rituals and teaching their religion's doctrines and practices. Some of the terms used for individual clergy are clergyman, clergywoman, and churchman. Less common terms are churchwoman and clergyperson, while cleric and clerk in holy orders both have a long history but are rarely used.
In religious organizations, the laity consists of all members who are not part of the clergy, usually including any non-ordained members of religious institutes, e.g. a nun or lay brother.
The term is found among those Eastern Orthodox Churches that use Slavic language (the Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Serbian and Macedonian Orthodox Churches), along with the Romanian Orthodox Church.
The Russian Orthodox Church, alternatively legally known as the Moscow Patriarchate, is one of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Christian churches. The Primate of the ROC is the Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus'. The ROC, as well as the primate thereof, officially ranks fifth in the Orthodox order of precedence, immediately below the four ancient patriarchates of the Greek Orthodox Church, those of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Since 15 October 2018, the ROC is not in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, having unilaterally severed ties in reaction to the establishment of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which was finalised by the Ecumenical Patriarchate on 5 January 2019.
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Orthodox Church. It is the oldest Slavic Orthodox Church with some 6 million members in the Republic of Bulgaria and between 1.5 and 2.0 million members in a number of European countries, the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and Asia. It was recognized as an independent Church by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in AD 870, becoming Patriarchate in 918/919.
The Serbian Orthodox Church is one of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Christian Churches. It is the second-oldest Slavic Orthodox Church in the world.
The presence of clerical and lay delegates is for the purpose of discerning the consensus of the church on important matters; however, the bishops form an upper house of the sobor, and the laity cannot overrule their decisions.[ citation needed ]
An upper house is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the lower house. The house formally designated as the upper house is usually smaller and often has more restricted power than the lower house. Examples of upper houses in countries include the Australian Senate, Brazil's Senado Federal, the Canadian Senate, France's Sénat, Germany's Bundesrat, India's Rajya Sabha, Ireland's Seanad, Malaysia's Dewan Negara, Myanmar's Amyotha Hluttaw, the Netherlands' Eerste Kamer, Pakistan's Senate of Pakistan, Russia's Federation Council, Switzerland's Council of States, United Kingdom's House of Lords and the United States Senate.
Kievan Rus' chronicles record the first known East Slavic church sobor as having taken place in Kiev in 1051. Sobors were convened periodically from then on; one notable assembly held in 1415 formed a separate metropoly for the church in the Grand Duchy of Lithuanian lands.
Important sobors in the History of the Russian Orthodox Church are:
A bishop may also call a sobor for his diocese, which again would have delegates from the clergy, monasteries and parishes of his diocese, to discuss important matters. Such diocesan sobors may be held annually or only occasionally.[ citation needed ]
In Roman Catholic usage, synod and council are theoretically synonymous as they are of Greek and Latin origins, respectively, both meaning an authoritative meeting of bishops for the purpose of church administration in the areas of teaching (faith and morals) or governance (church discipline or law). However, in modern use, synod and council are applied to specific categories of such meetings and so do not really overlap. A synod generally meets every three years and is thus designated an "Ordinary General Assembly." However, "Extraordinary" synods can be called to deal with specific situations. There are also "Special" synods for the Church in a specific geographic area such as the one held November 16-December 12, 1997, for the Church in America.
While the words "synod" and "council" usually refer to a transitory meeting, the term "Synod of Bishops" or "Synod of the Bishops",is also applied to a permanent body established in 1965 as an advisory body of the pope. It holds assemblies at which bishops and religious superiors, elected by bishops conferences or the Union of Superiors General or appointed by the Pope vote on proposals ("propositiones") to present for the pope's consideration, and which in practice the pope uses as the basis of "post-synodal apostolic exhortations" on the themes discussed. While an assembly of the Synod of Bishops thus expresses its collective wishes, it does not issue decrees, unless in certain cases the pope authorizes it to do so, and even then an assembly's decision requires ratification by the pope. The pope serves as president of an assembly or appoints the president, determines the agenda, and summons, suspends, and dissolves the assembly.
Modern Catholic synod themes:
Meetings of bishops in the Roman empire are known from the mid-third century and already numbered twenty by the time of the First Council of Nicaea (325). Thereafter they continued by the hundreds into the sixth century. Those authorized by an emperor and often attended by him came to be called ecumenical, meaning throughout the world (as the world was thought of in Western terms).Today, Council in Roman Catholic canon law typically refers to an irregular meeting of the entire episcopate of a nation, region, or the world for the purpose of legislation with binding force. Those contemplated in canon law are the following:
Plenary and provincial councils are categorized as particular councils. A particular council is composed of all the bishops of the territory (including coadjutors and auxiliaries) as well as other ecclesiastical ordinaries who head particular churches in the territory (such as territorial abbots and vicars apostolic). Each of these members has a vote on council legislation. Additionally, the following persons by law are part of particular councils but only participate in an advisory capacity: vicars general and episcopal, presidents of Catholic universities, deans of Catholic departments of theology and canon law, some major superiors elected by all the major superiors in the territory, some rectors of seminaries elected by the rectors of seminaries in the territory, and two members from each cathedral chapter, presbyterial council, or pastoral council in the territory (can. 443). The convoking authority can also select other members of the faithful (including the laity) to participate in the council in an advisory capacity.
Meetings of the entire episcopate of a supra-national region have historically been called councils as well, such as the various Councils of Carthage in which all the bishops of North Africa were to attend.
During the Middle Ages, some councils were legatine, called by a papal legate rather than the pope or bishop.
Synods in Eastern Rite Catholic Churches are similar to synods in Orthodox churches in that they are the primary vehicle for election of bishops and establishment of inter-diocesan ecclesiastical laws. The term synod in Latin Rite canon law, however, refers to meetings of a representative, thematic, non-legislative (advisory) or mixed nature or in some other way do not meet the qualifications of a "council." Examples include:
National Episcopal Conferences are another development of the Second Vatican Council. They are permanent bodies consisting of all the Latin rite bishops of a nation and those equivalent to diocesan bishops in law (i.e. territorial abbots). Bishops of other sui juris churches and papal nuncios are not members of episcopal conferences by law, though the conference itself may invite them in an advisory or voting capacity (can. 450).
While councils (can. 445) and diocesan synods (can. 391 & 466) have full legislative powers in their areas of competence, national episcopal conferences may only issue supplementary legislation when authorized to do so in canon law or by decree of the Holy See. Additionally, any such supplemental legislation requires a two-thirds vote of the conference and review by the Holy See (can. 455) to have the force of law. Without such authorization and review, episcopal conferences are deliberative only and exercise no authority over their member bishops or dioceses.
In the Anglican Communion, synods are elected by clergy and laity. In most Anglican churches, there is a geographical hierarchy of synods, with General Synod at the top; bishops, clergy and laity meet as "houses" within the synod.
Diocesan synods are convened by a bishop in his or her diocese, and consist of elected clergy and lay members.
Deanery synods are convened by the Rural Dean (or Area Dean) and consist of all clergy licensed to a benefice within the deanery, plus elected lay members.
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In Lutheran traditions a synod can be a legislative body at various levels of the church administration. It can also refer to an administrative region or an entire church body. Lutheran synods of the 1500s were only clergy gatherings such as those in the pre-Reformation church. Synods were held annually and dealt with only spiritual matters.
The inclusion of the laity in gatherings termed "synod" began with the Reformed churches and spread to the Lutherans. In the 1600s, Reformed-style synodical governance was adopted by the Lutheran congregations in the United Duchies of Jülich-Cleves-Berg when the sovereigns ceased to play a hand in church matters. A combination of consistorial and presbyterial-synodal style governance was instituted in the Prussian Union of Churches under Frederick William III of Prussia. Lutherans who immigrated from Germany and Scandinavia also adopted this form of synod, because the lands they immigrated to had no state church. The specific design of the synods took guidance from philosophies of organizational governance used at the time such as those modeled after the influence of Kant and Hegel. When the German monarchy and the sovereign governance of the church was ended in 1918, the synods took over the governance of the state churches.
A few Lutheran churches, such as the Church of Sweden or the Evangelical Regional Church in Württemberg, allow for the formation of political parties (also known as nominating groups, church party or colloquy circle) to nominate candidates for the Synod as a legislation; it is an extension of the idea of multi-ideological democracy within the church. The Missouri Synod also has nominating groups, but they are not officially recognized by the Synod and are not closely linked to any secular political parties as in Sweden. Larger nominating groups include Jesus First/Congregations Matter and the United List.
Also the former Evangelical Church of the Prussian Union, comprising mostly Lutheran but also some Reformed and United Protestant congregations, had church parties in its presbyterial and synodal elections.
In the Presbyterian system of church governance the synod is a level of administration between the local presbytery and the national general assembly. Some denominations use the synod, such as the Presbyterian Church in Canada, Uniting Church in Australia, and the Presbyterian Church USA. However some other churches do not use the synod at all, and the Church of Scotland dissolved its synods in 1993, see List of Church of Scotland synods and presbyteries.
In Swiss and southern German Reformed churches, where the Reformed churches are organized as regionally defined independent churches (such as Evangelical Reformed Church of Zurich or Reformed Church of Berne), the synod corresponds to the general assembly of Presbyterian churches. In Reformed churches, the synod can denote a regional meeting of representatives of various classes (regional synod), or the general denominational meeting of representatives from the regional synods (general or national synod). Some churches, especially the smaller denominations, do not have the regional synod tier (for example, the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS)). Historically, these were meetings such as the Synod of Homberg.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the vast majority of Protestant denominations have regrouped under a religious institution named the Church of Christ in Congo or CCC, often referred to – within the Congo – simply as The Protestant Church. In the CCC structure, the national synod is the general assembly of the various churches that constitutes the CCC. From the Synod is drawn an Executive Committee, and a secretariat. There are also synods of the CCC in every province of the Congo, known appropriately as provincial synods. The CCC regroups 62 Protestant denominations.
An episcopal polity is a hierarchical form of church governance in which the chief local authorities are called bishops. It is the structure used by many of the major Christian Churches and denominations, such as the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Church of the East, Anglican, and Lutheran churches or denominations, and other churches founded independently from these lineages.
The Second Council of Nicaea is recognized as the last of the first seven ecumenical councils by the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. In addition, it is also recognized as such by the Old Catholics and others. Protestant opinions on it are varied.
The word diocese is derived from the Greek term dioikesis (διοίκησις) meaning "administration". Today, when used in an ecclesiastical sense, it refers to the ecclesiastical district under the jurisdiction of a bishop. Sometimes it is also called bishopric.
Presbyterianpolity is a method of church governance typified by the rule of assemblies of presbyters, or elders. Each local church is governed by a body of elected elders usually called the session or consistory, though other terms, such as church board, may apply. Groups of local churches are governed by a higher assembly of elders known as the presbytery or classis; presbyteries can be grouped into a synod, and presbyteries and synods nationwide often join together in a general assembly. Responsibility for conduct of church services is reserved to an ordained minister or pastor known as a teaching elder, or a minister of the word and sacrament.
Full communion is a communion or relationship of full understanding among different Christian denominations that share certain essential principles of Christian theology. Views vary among denominations on exactly what constitutes full communion, but typically when two or more denominations are in full communion it enables services and celebrations, such as the Eucharist, to be shared among congregants or clergy of any of them with the full approval of each.
The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) is an Eastern Orthodox church, partly recognized as autocephalous, in North America. The OCA consists of more than 700 parishes, missions, communities, monasteries and institutions in the United States and Canada. In 2011, it had an estimated 84,900 members in the United States.
An ecclesiastical court, also called court Christian or court spiritual, is any of certain courts having jurisdiction mainly in spiritual or religious matters. In the Middle Ages these courts had much wider powers in many areas of Europe than before the development of nation states. They were experts in interpreting canon law, a basis of which was the Corpus Juris Civilis of Justinian which is considered the source of the civil law legal tradition.
Defrocking, unfrocking, or laicization of clergy is the removal of their rights to exercise the functions of the ordained ministry. It may be grounded on criminal convictions, disciplinary problems, or disagreements over doctrine or dogma, but may also be done at their request for personal reasons, such as running for civil office, taking over a family business, declining health or old age, desire to marry against the rules for clergy in a particular church, or an unresolved dispute. The form of the procedure varies according to the Christian denomination concerned. The term defrocking implies forced laicization for misconduct, while laicization is a neutral term, applicable also when clergy have requested to be released from their ordination vows.
In Christian churches with episcopal polity, the rank of metropolitan bishop, or simply metropolitan, pertains to the diocesan bishop or archbishop of a metropolis.
In several of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches and Eastern Catholic Churches, the patriarch or head bishop is elected by a group of bishops called the Holy Synod. For instance, the Holy Synod is a ruling body of the Georgian Orthodox Church.
The Quinisext Council was a church council held in 692 at Constantinople under Justinian II. It is known as the "Council in Trullo" because, like the Sixth Ecumenical Council, it was held in a domed hall in the Imperial Palace. Both the Fifth and the Sixth Ecumenical Councils had omitted to draw up disciplinary canons, and as this council was intended to complete both in this respect, it took the name of Quinisext, i.e. the Fifth-Sixth Council. It was attended by 215 bishops, all from the Eastern Roman Empire. Basil of Gortyna in Crete, however, belonged to the Roman patriarchate and called himself papal legate, though no evidence is extant of his right to use that title.
The General Synod is the tricameral deliberative and legislative organ of the Church of England. The synod was instituted in 1970, replacing the Church Assembly, and is the culmination of a process of rediscovering self-government for the Church of England that had started in the 1850s.
The Councils of Carthage were church synods held during the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries in the city of Carthage in Africa. The most important of these are described below.
Ecclesiastical polity is the operational and governance structure of a church or of a Christian denomination. It also denotes the ministerial structure of a church and the authority relationships between churches. Polity relates closely to ecclesiology, the study of doctrine and theology relating to church organization.
Conciliarity is the adherence of various Christian communities to the authority of ecumenical councils and to synodal church governance. It is not to be confused with conciliarism, which is a particular historical movement within the Catholic Church. Different churches interpret conciliarity different ways.
The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada is the chief governing and legislative body of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC), the sole Canadian representative of the Anglican Communion. The first General Synod session was held in Toronto in 1893, with the proviso that the parameters of its authority would not undermine the local independence of dioceses.
The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is a Christian denomination in the Anglican tradition in the United States and Canada. It also includes ten congregations in Mexico and a missionary diocese in Cuba. Headquartered in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, the church reported 30 dioceses and 1,037 congregations serving an estimated membership of 134,593 in 2017. The first archbishop of the ACNA was Robert Duncan, who was succeeded by Foley Beach in 2014.
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