Institutions Governance and Canon

According to the Sixth Canon of the Council of Nicaea, the Exarch of Caesarea had jurisdiction over the missionary districts to the east of the Exarchate. Consequently, for about sixty years after the consecration of St Gregory as catholicos, his successors were ordained by the Exarchs of Caesarea. After 373, open canonical ties with Caesarea were severed. The Armenian Church had become sufficiently strong and mature, its clergy had increased in numbers, and its authority had been established.

Of the seven General Councils designated 'Ecumenical' in the Orthodox Church, the Armenian Church acknowledges the first three: (1) Nicaea, 325; (2) Constantinople, 381; (3) Ephesus, 431. It does not accept (4) Chalcedon, 451, and has made no formal pronouncements on the remaining three: (5) Constantinople, II, 553; (6) Constantinople, III, 681; and (7) Nicaea II, 787.

Of the regional councils, accepted by the ancient churches before the division in 451, the Armenian Church has also included in its Book of Canons the Acts of the Councils of Ancyra, 314; Caesarea, 314; Neocaesarea, 316; Gangra, 345; Antioch, 341; Laodicea, 365; and Sardica, 343; it also includes the canons of the Apostolic Constitutions and of the post-Apostolic Fathers. The Armenian Church, in company with all the ancient churches, reveres and follows the teachings of all the eminent church fathers (with the exception of Pope Leo I, d. 461) of the early classical period to the end of the fifth century. Between 354 and 1652 the Armenian Church convened twenty-two local councils, which were often attended not only by bishops, but also by princes, secular leaders and clergy of lower ranks. In the council of Shahapivan (444), the second Armenian Church council, but the first of which the legislation is extant in detail, the lay attendants, addressing the bishops, are reported to have said:

These laws are pleasing to God and good for the building up of the Church. You order them and we shall obey and execute them. And if anyone does not hold firm the provisions of these laws, be he a bishop, or a presbyter, or a freeman, or a yeomen, he shall be punished and shall pay fines. (Hakobyan 1964: 534-5)

One of the most important aspects of the Armenian Church administration is its conciliar system, that is, the administrative, as well as doctrinal, liturgical, and canonical norms are set and approved by a council, a collective and participatory decision-making process. The Council of Bishops is the highest religious authority in the Church:

Clerical: catholicos, bishop, priest, deacon

Lay: National Ecclesiastical Assembly, Diocesan Assembly, parish

On each level, clergy and lay cooperation is central to the overall administration and ministry of the Church. While the Church is governed according to the standards set forth in the canons, there are complementary by-laws in most dioceses that further define the role and relationship of each functionary in the church within a given region.

There are four hierarchical sees in the Armenian Church: (1) The Catholicate of All Armenians in Ejmiadsin (Armenia), (2) The Catholicate of Cilicia (Lebanon), (3) The Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and (4) The Patriarchate of Constantinople.

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