On Canonical Orthodoxy

St. Theodore the Studite ca. 759-826

[The Church of God] has not permitted anything to be done or said against the established decrees and laws, although many shepherds have in many ways railed against them (cf. Jer. 10:25). When they have called great and very numerous synods, and given themselves the name of the Church of God, they were careful to put on a show of concern for the canons, while in truth acting against them.

Sir, a synod does not consist simply in the gathering together of bishops and priests not matter how many there are… A synod occurs when, in the Lord’s name, the canons are thoroughly searched out and maintained. And a synod is not to bind and loose in some random way, but as seems proper to the truth and to the canon and to the rule of strictness.

And no authority whatever has been given to bishops for any transgression of a canon. They are to follow what has been decreed, and to adhere to those who have gone before. (Epistle 24, 62-80)

Shall we say: ‘Since it is lawful for an archbishop together with his associates to do as he pleases, let him be for the duration of his archbishopric a new Evangelist, another Apostle, a different Law-giver?’ Certainly not. For we have an injunction from the Apostle himself: If anyone preaches a doctrine, or urges you to do something against what you have received, against what is prescribed by the canons of the catholic and local synods held at various times, he is not to be received, or to be reckoned among the number of the faithful. And I forbear even to mention the terrible judgment with which the Apostle concludes (Gal. 1:8). (Epistle 24, 94-101)

Even if we are great sinners, we are Orthodox and children of the universal Church, repudiating every heresy, and receiving every ecumenical and local synod that is approved; and not only that, but also the canonical constitutions promulgated by them. For he who appears to have right faith but is not guided by the sacred canons is not fully, but only half-way Orthodox. (Epistle 25, 31-35)