We often talk about the 7 ecumenical councils. This made me think. Why are the other councils not considered ecumenical?

There have been 21 Ecumenical Councils.

Those first seven occurred while the East and West were still united. Thus they are accepted as binding by both Catholic and Orthodox.

After the Schism, that is not the case. But the Catholic Church accepts all 21 as Ecumenical Councils.

An ecumenical Council represents the entire Church and therefore exercises the supreme teaching and/or governing authority of the Church.

In the history of the Church, however, there have been other Councils of bishops of a more local scope. They are usually made up of bishops from particular region and make decisions for those regions, although some have gained a more universal scope due to their acceptance by the Pope and the rest of the Church.

Likewise, a more recent practice is for the Pope to summon some of the bishops from around the world for councils about particular issues.

This is a good post. I just want to point out, for readers who may be confused about the various types of councils, that it is not in conflict with this post:

The Church accepts 21 ecumenical councils, not just the first 7, and there are also regional councils and councils where just some of the leaders of the Church gather to make a decision without it being an ecumenical council.

Here is one way of distinguishing between the various kinds of councils that I have found helpful:

Usually, a regional council is called a synod. Their decisions typically affect only their region. A council where some of the leaders of the Church meet to make a decision regarding the whole Church is typically called a council. Ecumenical councils are a type of council that both makes decisions affecting the whole Church and invites the bishops from all over the world to help draft the decisions, and in those cases the council’s doctrinal decisions have infallible authority if they are ratified by the pope.

These terms “synod” and “council” are pretty fluid, though, and they are sometimes used interchangeably. The definitions I gave correspond to a trend that I have seen in Catholic literature, and I think the trend of calling regional councils “synods” and leadership councils “councils” should be promoted. In the long run, I think it will reduce confusion.

If someone who knows more thinks I have gotten something wrong, please feel free to correct me. I am trying not to speak technically, which may produce inaccuracies, but I am also not perfect, and thus I may err for lack of knowledge.

Sorry to disappoint you but you’re wrong. Ever heard of the non-Chalcedonians? We then need to talk about two schisms and not just one. And I really hate when people talk about the Orthodoxes as one group. There are two groups: Eastern and Oriental (non-Chalcedonians).

Some people do recognize some Eastern Christians as being non-Chalcedonians. It’s kinda sad not many people take notice of them.

Anyway those events which you called “splits” are not considered schisms because the people who caused those “splits” during the early centuries of the Church (i.e. Arius, Nestorius, etc.) were heretics. They were just banished by the Church because they had heretical beliefs. Their followers simply just… followed them. So technically that means there were no splits and that their followers just left the Church and established churches in the East which fit their own brand of Christianity and became Oriental Christians. It was still ecumenical Correct me if I got something wrong guys.

The Great Schism of 1054 and the Reformation however were splits since that the basic tenants of Orthodoxy and Protestantism were in line with the first Ecumenical Councils (Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Protestants all hold on to the Nicene Creed).

I think part of that depends on your interpretation of the word Protestant. I include Unitarians and Jehovah’s Witnesses as Protestants because they broke off from other Protestant groups in the same way that the rest of Protestant denominations did. But those two specific denominations are not Christian and do not accept the Nicene Creed. Therefore, in my opinion, you can be Protestant (if you broke off in the way other Protestants did) without being Christian.

Other people would say they don’t count as Protestants because part of being Protestant is by definition being Christian. I think it comes down to how you define the term “Protestant” – is it a group of persons who hold onto a “most common denominator” minimum set of theological ideas, or is it a group whose origin traces back (through splitting) to the Protestant Revolt, or is it something else?

Why can’t you accept that there were two schisms?
You mentioned some hereticts but those are not what I was talking about. The Oriental Orthodox (non-chalcedinians) are not a part of those groups.
Coptic Orthodox Church is an example of a non-chalcedonian church.

I’m extremly tired of this: “the Church were united until the great schism.”
Well, It’s wrong because the oriental orthodox churches didn’t even accept 7 ecumenical councils.

If you want to debate Schisms you should start a new thread.

You have gone off the topic you raised:

"We often talk about the 7 ecumenical councils. This made me think. Why are the other councils not considered ecumenical?

It has already been answered. There are not only 7 ecumenical councils. There are 21.

So the Coptic Orthodox Church is heretic and the Greek Orthodox Church is schismatic?

I believe we have a misunderstanding here. That question really needs its own separate thread because it is so complex while the question you originally posed in the first post was simple. We’re not suggesting that the Copts are heretics or the Orthodox Christians are schismatics. We’re merely giving you the answer and explanation as to how there are 21 ecumenical councils. Simple as that. We don’t want to end this thread with a diverging topic now would we?

You are the one who opened this thread. Please stay on topic. We have suggested that if you wish to discuss schisms then open a new thread. Your OP question has already been answered.

Technically we might talk of three schisms. The Christian churches of Sassanid Persia held what is sometimes referred to as “Nestorian” doctrine, which was condemned at the First Council of Ephesus in 431. Afterward, these churches broke with the Church of the Roman Empire. The Church of the East, the Christian church of Sassanid Persia, exists to this day.

The churches in Egypt and to a lesser extent Syria who rejected the Council of Chalcedon in 451 maintained a “Miaphysite” theology, often labeled “Monophysite”. After the Council of Chalcedon, the controversy together with institutional, political, and growing nationalistic factors led to a lasting schism. These churches are usually called the Oriental Orthodox.


The thread topic is Councils and not schisms.

Then answer my last question and close the thread?

The only question relevant to the thread is about the Councils and you were given the answer. We are not answering questions about the schisms. If you want to discuss schisms then start a new thread. I’m sure you will have plenty of participants willing to debate it.

Which detracts not one jot from the truth of the post, its responsiveness to a post in the thread, and the fact that Ephesus and Chalcedon were ecumenical councils.


The discussion of the thread is about the nature of the councils and what makes them ecumenical, not the result of the councils, which caused the schisms.

Which detracts not one jot from the truth of the post, its responsiveness to a post in the thread, and the fact that Ephesus and Chalcedon were ecumenical councils.

Ecumenical to whom?

The original question was:

"We often talk about the 7 ecumenical councils. This made me think. Why are the other councils not considered ecumenical? "

Certainly the fact that some consider less than seven ecumenical is topical, as is why they don’t consider them ecumenical. We’ve already read that the correct number for Catholics is 21, which goes beyond the 7 of the original question.

If the why? involves schism, then schism is topical.

Surely a friendly conversation across the back fence amongst Catholics doesn’t require a jackboot approach so narrowly constraining the topic that every noun not contained in the establishing proposition is verboten. Nein?


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