Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Sunday, October 5, 2014

5 October 869 A.D. Canterkerous 8th Council in Byzantium

5 October 869 A.D.  Canterkerous 8th Council in Byzantium

Graves, Dan. “Disagreeable 8th Council.”  Apr 2007.  Accessed 26 May 2014.

Paul had to plead with two ladies, Euodia and Syntyche to stop quarreling. Squabbles among Christians happen. You've seen it yourself. But if left unattended they may harm the church. Often they lead to outright rupture. In the 9th century, storm clouds banked over the church. Its Latin and Greek branches were quarreling.

On this day, October 5, 869 the eighth general church council opened in Constantinople. This was the fourth council held in the leading city of Byzantium. Although the council was called by emperor Basil and Pope Adrian II, only 102 bishops showed up.

The council dealt with several controversial issues. For instance, it decided that it was wrong for Christians to smash icons. Many Christians viewed the use of icons as idolatry and removed them from churches or wrecked them. Controversial as that decision was, the main task of the council was even more troublesome. It deposed Patriarch Photius of Constantinople, saying he had usurped his ecclesiastical position.

This had come about because Ignatius, patriarch of Constantinople, protested an incestuous relationship between "Caesar" Bardas and his daughter-in-law, Eudocia. Bardas ousted Ignatius and replaced him with Photius. Photius appealed to Rome to confirm his ordination. Rome refused. One thing led to another, and Photius condemned the Roman church over several issues, including the way it handled Lent, its refusal to allow priests to marry, and for unilaterally changing the words of the creed where it spoke of the Holy Spirit.

To clear up these issues the council of Constantinople was called. This was the last of the general councils held in the east--and it is not accepted by the Eastern Orthodox church. If the problems had been addressed fairly, the council might have succeeded. But at Constantinople, Photius wasn't allowed to present his full defense. Naturally, he refused to sign the condemnation the council issued against him and so he was excommunicated.

In a council held in 879-80, Photius was restored as the patriarch of Constantinople. Pope John VIII agreed with the decision. But Photius renewed his charges against the Latin church. Soon, however, he was exiled by a new emperor and vanished from the scene.

The Photius affair showed how much misunderstanding had crept into relations between the eastern and western halves of the Roman empire. The Latin and Greek churches split a century and a half later.


1.      Bellitto, Christopher M. The General Councils: a History of the Twenty-one General Councils from Nicaea to Vatican II. New York : Paulist Press, 2002.

2.      "General Councils." The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton, 1914.

3.      Guitton, Jean. Great Heresies and Church Councils. [English translation by F.D. Wieck] New York: Harper & Row, 1965.

4.      Jedin, Hubert. Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church. Herder and Herder, 1960.

5.      Oman. Story of the Byzantine Empire. New York: Putnam, 1892. Source of the image.

6.      Raab, Clement. The Twenty Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church. Westminster, Maryland: Newman Press, 1959.

Last updated April, 2007.

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