The Council of Capitol

Last December, I wrote an essay on faith in the Shine and Wild Empire, as part of the growing corpus of background material for the Shine Cycle. In that essay, I briefly mentioned the Council of Capitol, an ecumenical council prompted by the problems of integrating the Chosen—Earth-raised Christians of various denominations—after their unexpected arrival into a native Church that developed somewhat differently from ours. Today, I’d like to give a little more information about that Council, and to ask your input as to what shape the discussion might take.

First, the context. In the current version of the timeline (I plan to revise it soon, one of these days …) the Chosen arrive in the year 110, just as a war is about to begin. The war consumed the focus of the entire Empire and the efforts of most of the Chosen for two years, and maintaining the uneasy truce for three more years until a binding peace treaty was signed did not leave much room for distractions. After that, the Chosen began to find their place in Imperial society in peacetime, and the ecumenical problems gradually arose. While these did not reach the level of acrimonious dissension, the King summoned various Church leaders and all interested parties to that world’s first ecumenical council, the First (and so far only) Council of Capitol, in 117.

There were many areas for debate: liturgy, various areas of theology, the sacraments, ecumenical communion, and so on. And as nearly all participants wished to come to real agreement, and forestall any further problems, the Council went on well into the next year. The participants included many native church leaders, but among the Chosen they included a few pastors but mostly interested lay Christians, from various denominational backgrounds, including strict Calvinists, Lutherans, Baptists, and Roman Catholics and Anglicans—whose concern at being disconnected from Rome and Westminster, respectively, was a major reason for calling the council so soon.

One of the first major points that needed to be resolved was that of liturgy, which I’ll explain here as an example. Many of the Chosen came from churches that nominally eschewed liturgy entirely (though, as I mentioned in passing in my essay on liturgy last month, every church has a liturgy, whether it calls it that or not), while many others came from traditions including highly structured, very formal liturgies. Each group has at least putative Biblical bases for its position, so neither group was prepared to accommodate the other, and neither was entirely satisfied with the semi-formal liturgy that was standard in the native churches. Beyond this, there was little agreement among some of the “highly-liturgical” camp, because of the legacy of centuries of schism here on Earth. Once a solution was put forth that all parties could accede to, a committee convened to produce a suitable liturgy to be promulgated within the Empire.

Discussion of these and other issues went on for many months, until the Council closed with approval of documents to secure ecumenical unity among the various churches of the Empire. But I’m not having many thoughts as to what form that discussion would take, what conclusions could be reached, or even what specific issues would have to be debated. Do you have any ideas?

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