Project Description


Recovering the Fullness of Synodality: Lay Participation in the Conciliar Process


Annual Florovsky Lecture (2019)


Dr. Paul Gavrilyuk


Dr. Paul Gavrilyuk gives 2019 Annual Florovsky Lecture, “Recovering the Fullness of Synodality: Lay Participation in the Conciliar Process,” at the annual meeting of the Orthodox Theological Society in America in Glenview, Illinois, USA. The lecture discusses local, regional, universal, and eschatological forms of synodality; the causes of Orthodoxy’s jurisdictional divisions, and articulates IOTA’s role in the conciliar process.

Dr. Paul Gavrilyuk, the Aquinas Chair in Philosophy and Theology in the Theology Department at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN. Dr. Gavrilyuk is the founding president of the International Orthodox Theological Association (IOTA) and the author of numerous articles and books, from The Suffering of the Impassible God: the Dialectics of Patristic Theology (2004) to Georges Florovsky and the Russian Religious Renaissance (2013), both published by Oxford University Press.

The First Seven Ecumenical Councils

In the history of Christianity, the first seven ecumenical councils include the following: the First Council of Nicaea in 325, the First Council of Constantinople in 381, the Council of Ephesus in 431, the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Second Council of Constantinople in 553, the Third Council of Constantinople from 680–681 and finally, the Second Council of Nicaea in 787.

These seven events represented an attempt by Church leaders to reach an orthodox consensus, restore peace and develop a unified Christendom. Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, the Church of the East, Old Catholic, Anglican, and some Lutheran churches all trace the legitimacy of their clergy by apostolic succession back to this period and beyond, to the earlier period referred to as Early Christianity.

This era begins with the First Council of Nicaea, which enunciated the Nicene Creed that in its original form and as modified by the First Council of Constantinople of 381 was seen by all later councils as the touchstone of orthodoxy on the doctrine of the Trinity.

The Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church accept all seven of these councils as legitimate ecumenical councils. The Oriental Orthodox Churches accept only the first three, while the Church of the East accepts only the first two. There is also one additional council (the Quinisext Council), which was held between the sixth and seventh ecumenical councils (in AD 692), and which issued organizational, liturgical and canonical rules but did not discuss theology. It is accepted as ecumenical by the Eastern Orthodox Church alone, however the Eastern Orthodox do not give it a number, but rather count it as a continuation of the sixth council.

  • First Council of Nicaea

    • May 20 – June 19, 325 AD
    • Convoked by Emperor Constantine the Great
    • Attendance: 318
    • President: Hosius of Corduba
    • Topics: Arianism, the nature of Christ, celebration of Passover (Easter), ordination of eunuchs, prohibition of kneeling on Sundays and from Easter to Pentecost, validity of baptism by heretics, lapsed Christians, sundry other matters.
  • First Council of Constantinople

    • May – July, 381 AD
    • Convoked by Emperor Theodosius I
    • Attendance: 150
    • Presidents: Timothy of Alexandria, Meletius of Antioch, Gregory Nazianzus, Nectarius of Constantinople
    • Topics: Arianism, Apollinarism, Sabellianism, Holy Spirit, successor to Meletius
  • First Council of Ephesus

    • June 22 – July 31, 431 AD
    • Convoked by Emperor Theodosius II
    • Attendance: 200-250
    • President: Cyril of Alexandria
    • Topics: Nestorianism, the Most-Holy Theotokos, Pelagianism
  • Council of Chalcedon

    • October 8 – November 1, 451 AD
    • Convoked by Emperor Marcian
    • Attendance: 520
    • Presidents: A board of government officials, led by the patrician Anatolius
    • Topics: The judgments issued at the Second Council of Ephesus in 449, the alleged offences of Bishop Dioscorus of Alexandria, the relationship between the divinity and humanity of Christ, many disputes involving particular bishops and sees.
  • Second Council of Constantinople

    • May 5 – June 2 553 AD
    • Convoked by Emperor Justinian I
    • Attendance: 152
    • President: Euthychius of Constantinople
    • Topics: Nestorianism, Monophysitism
  • Third Council of Constantinople

    • November 7, 680 AD – September 16 681 AD
    • Convoked by Emperor Constantine IV
    • Attendance: 300
    • President: Patr. George I of Constantinople
    • Topics: Monothelitism, the human and divine wills of Jesus
  • Second Council of Nicaea

    • September 24 – October 23 787 AD
    • Convoked by Emperor Constantine VI and Empress Irene
    • Attendance: 350
    • Presidents: Patr. Tarasios of Constantinople, legates of Pope Adrian I
    • Topic: Iconoclasm

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