The Council of Nicea
What was the Council of Nicea?
The newly-converted Emperor Constantine had hoped Christianity would be the uniting force of his empire. He was thus distressed to hear of the dispute over Arianism, which held that Christ was greater than man but inferior to God. In 325, Constantine called the Council of Nicea with full confidence that the bishops could work out their differences.
The gathering must have been a moving sight to behold. After centuries of persecution, Christian bishops from across the Empire journeyed to Nicea under state protection to discuss theological problems with the help of the Emperor. Official persecution had been so recent that many of the bishops still bore its scars; Constantine himself is said to have kissed the eyeless cheek of one attendee.
The Council of Nicea condemned the teachings of Arius and adopted a creed outlining correct belief about the Son's relationship to the Father. The council was the first to include bishops from several different regions, and is thus considered the first "ecumenical council" of the church.
Although many other local synods were held, seven important councils were attended by representatives of churches throughout the empire, and were therefore "ecumenical." All three main branches of Christianity - Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant - consider the decisions of these seven councils to be authoritative. Roman Catholics recognize several more.