Perhaps it should go without saying that the Anglican Communion has a mixed history with the seven ecumenical councils. Like the Orthodox, Anglicans cannot accept Rome’s reduction of “ecumenical council” to mean a general synod called by the pope. Yet I suspect that most Anglicans — including many who call themselves Anglo-Catholics — remain deeply suspicious of claims to “infallibility” about councils, even when, regarding the seven, such a notion is held consistently in both East and West.Read the rest here.
This suspicion is unfortunate—or so I hope to show in this brief essay. It is unfortunate first of all because it ignores the grammar implicit in calling something an ecumenical council. A council becomes ecumenical not because, crudely, everybody was there, but because it was eventually received as having proper dogmatic authority in the whole world. (Paragraph 68 of the Windsor Report admits as much.) The trouble with this simple definition is, as is probably apparent, the constitution of the oikoumene, since the “whole Church” that accepted Chalcedondid not include some of the Eastern churches, just as the “whole Church” that accepted Vatican I did not include any of the Eastern churches. So much for the perspicuity of the vocabulary.
What any conception of “ecumenical” takes for granted, then, is that in order to call something ecumenical one must be part of the Church. It is the Church itself, as the Body of Christ, that reveals its wholeness, not some external secular principle. Accordingly, we cannot seek to judge the councils from some neutral ground. That, in Vladimir Lossky’s words, “would be to judge Christianity from a non-Christian standpoint: in other words, to refuse in advance to understand anything whatever about the object of study. For objectivity in no wise consists in taking one’s stand outside an object but, on the contrary, in considering one’s object in itself and by itself” (The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church [Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1976], 12).
Hat tip T-19