Church Canons

(Ecclesiastical Regulations)

The sources of teaching in our Orthodox Church are:

  1. The Holy Scriptures
  2. Tradition (capital "t")
  3. Liturgies
  4. Councils
  5. The Fathers of the Church
  6. Arts
    • Hymnology - theology in tunes
    • Iconography - theology in colors
    • Architecture

We cannot neglect any of these, as Orthodox Christians, we take the teaching completely. The word "heresy" originally means to pick and choose. We cannot just choose certain parts in which to believe, and ignore the rest.

Since the 1st century the apostles, and later their successors the bishops, regulated the Church's worship, her ministry and the believers' behavior through a body of statements and phrases called canons. These came into being as a result of many factors among which are:

  • Foreign teachings
  • Behaviors that are condradictory to the Holy Tradition received from Our Lord and the holy apostles
  • Unification of the faithful in diverse places
  • Emphasis of certain beliefs and dogmas in the holy scriptures.
  • To answer certain practices the Church faced during specific times
  • To put in place a system the Church could follow in the absence of secular ones like the inheritance, rent, debts, ...etc.

These canons were written by:

  • The apostles themselves as is evident in Acts 15.
  • Church Bishops gathered in ecumenical, regional or local councils
  • Bishops of the holy sees mainly in Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Jerusalem and Rome

Most of the Church canons that are still in use are those that directly affect the Church's way of worship and her rites. These are the ones that will be explained.

The file below is a chart of the canons the Apostle put together. These were orally handed down from one generation to the next across the Churches till they were penned down in the first four centuries.