*An explanation for the dating of these canons.

Canon I
Before the devout Emperor Constantine, beloved of God, the Council of Nicaea set forth a decree concerning the holy and valuable celebration of Easter.  If anyone, therefore, presumes to disregard this decree of the holy and great Council, let them be excommunicated and expelled from the church.  This decree concerns the laity.  However, if any of those who preside in the church [i.e. the clergy] presume to follow their own judgment and keep ignoring the decree of the Council by observing Easter at the same time as the Jews, he shall be treated as a foreigner to the church.  This decree applies to bishops, priests, and deacons because such a man not only heaps sin on himself but also subverts and misleads many and leads them to their destruction.  The decree not only deposes the person himself from his ministry, but also any who presume to commune with him after his excommunication.  Finally, the deposed will even be deprived of the outward honor that the holy clergy and God’s priesthood enjoy.

Canon II
All those who enter the church of God and hear the Holy Scriptures but do not pray with the congregation, or for any reason, refuse to partake of the Eucharist are to be expelled from the church.  They must make confession and bring forth fruits of penance.  Only after they have made an earnest plea will they receive forgiveness.  It is unlawful to commune with excommunicated persons, to assemble at private homes and pray with those who do not pray in the church, or to welcome those who do not assemble with another church.  In addition, if any of the bishops, priests, deacons, or anyone in the canon are found communing with excommunicated persons, let them also be excommunicated because they bring confusion to the order of the Church.

Canon III
If any priest, deacon, or anyone belonging to the priesthood leaves their parish, departs to reside in another area, and plans to remain in another parish for a long time, let him officiate no longer.  This decree especially applies when his own bishop summons him and urges him to return to his own parish yet he does not obey.  If he persists in this disorderly conduct, let him be dismissed entirely from his ministry with no hope of reinstatement.  Finally, if another bishop welcomes such a man, let him be punished by a regular council as one who obstructs the church’s laws.

Canon IV
If any bishop has been removed by a council, or any priest or deacon has been removed by his bishop, he will have no hope of reinstatement by another council or even be given the opportunity to make his defense if he presumes to continue to carry out any part of his former ministry during his removal.  It makes no difference whether the case involves someone who had been a bishop, a priest, or a deacon.  Any who communes with him shall be expelled from the church, especially if they were aware of the sentence against the person.

Canon V
If any priest or deacon despises his bishop and separates himself from the church by gathering a congregation privately and setting up an altar, his bishop should summon him.  If he refuses to submit even after his bishop summons him a first and a second time, the bishop must dismiss him from the clergy with no possibility of reinstatement to his position or rank.  If he continues to disturb the church, the state should discipline him as a seditious person.

Canon VI
If anyone has been excommunicated by his own bishop, let no one welcome him until either his own bishop has restored him or a council gives him a different sentence after he has convinced them by appearing and making his defense.  This decree applies to the laity, priests, deacons, and anyone enrolled on the list of clergy.

Canon VII
No stranger should be given hospitality without a letter from his bishop.

Canon VIII
Country priests cannot give letters of good standing, except to neighboring bishops.  Country bishops in good standing may, however, issue letters that grant hospitality.

Canon IX
It is proper for the bishops in every province to submit to the bishop who resides in the metropolis.   For he must consider the whole province, because business men from every corner of the provinces gather in the metropolis.  It is decreed, therefore, that the bishop of the metropolis has top precedence in rank.  Other bishops may take no extraordinary actions without his consent (as the canon passed down to us from the time of our fathers directs).  They may only do things that involve their own parishes and the districts subject to them.  Every bishop has authority over his own parish: to manage it with the piety required of all, to provide for the whole district dependent on his city, to ordain priests and deacons, and to settle everything with judgment.  Let him undertake nothing further without the bishop of the metropolis nor the latter without the consent of the others.

Canon X
The holy council decrees that country bishops in villages and rural districts, even though they were raised to the office of bishop, will observe their limits and manage only churches and districts subject to them.  They will be content with the care and administration of these.  They may ordain lectors [readers], sub-deacons, and exorcists, and they should be content with promoting these.  They may not, however, ordain deacons or priests without the consent of the city bishop to whom he and his district are subject.  If anyone dares to ignore these decrees, they shall be deposed from the rank he enjoys.  Finally, a country bishop is to be appointed by the city bishop to whom he is subject.

Canon XI
If any bishop, priest, or member of the clergy presumes to present himself to the emperor without letters of consent from the bishop of his province and in particular those of the metropolitan bishop, he will be publicly deposed and expelled.  He will be deprived not only of the right of fellowship but also of the rank he happens to have.  This is his punishment for daring to disturb the ears of our emperor, beloved of God, and for disregarding the laws of the church.  If, however, someone must go to the emperor on necessary business, then let him go with the advice and consent of his metropolitan bishop and the other bishops of his province, and let him undertake his journey with letters from them.

Canon XII
If any priest or deacon deposed by his own bishop or any bishop deposed by a council dares to appeal to the emperor, he will not be pardoned.  Anyone who has been deposed must refer his case to a greater council of bishops and tell those bishops what he thinks is right.  He must also abide by their examination and decision.  If he troubles the emperor, he shall have no opportunity to make his defense nor any hope of future reinstatement.

Canon XIII
No bishop should presume to travel from one province to another and ordain people to the ministry of the church, not even if he has other clergy with him, without the written permission of the metropolitan bishop and lesser bishops of the country he enters.  If, without invitation, he does meddle in the ordinations and church affairs of provinces that are not under his responsibility, then anything he has done is nullified.  In addition, he himself should be punished properly for this irregularity and improper undertaking.  He should immediately be deposed by the holy council.

Canon XIV
If a bishop is brought to trial on any charge and the bishops of his province disagree about his case, some thinking him innocent and others guilty, there is only one solution.  The holy council decrees that the metropolitan bishop summon some bishops from another province to add their opinion and resolve the dispute.  Thus, together with the bishops of the province itself, they will confirm the verdict.

Canon XV
If a bishop is accused of any charge and is judged by all the bishops of the province and all of them deliver the same verdict concerning him, that bishop should not be tried a second time.  The unanimous verdict of the bishops of the province will stand.

Canon XVI
If any bishop without a position takes charge of a vacant church and takes possession of the bishop’s chair without the approval of a full council, he must be expelled, even if all the people of the church support him.  He has usurped authority, and a full council together with the metropolitan bishop must take up the matter.

Canon XVII
If anyone has been ordained as a bishop, is appointed to preside over a congregation, but then does not accept his ministry or even proceed to the church entrusted to him, he will be excommunicated.  He will remain excommunicated until he has been convinced to accept his position, or until a full council of the province’s bishops have considered his case and dealt with him.

If any bishop assigned to a parish fails to take up his duties through no fault of his own, he will continue to hold his rank and ministry.  It is no fault of his own if the people reject him or another reason beyond his control prevents him from carrying out his ministry.   In the meanwhile however, he must not disturb the affairs of the church he attends as a guest.  He must also abide by the decision of the full council of the province when they judge his case.

Canon XIX
Only a council held in the presence of the metropolitan bishop may ordain a bishop.  Furthermore, it is best to do this when all the brothers in the ministry of the province gather together with the metropolitan bishop.  He should, therefore, send them all letters of invitation.  It is best if all can meet; however, if this is impossible, it is imperative that a majority either be present or take part in the election by letter.  In this way, the decision will be made by the consent of the majority.  If anything takes place contrary to these decrees, such action is hereby nullified.  If any should object because they love to argue, the majority’s decision will stand.

Canon XX
For the good of the church and to settle disputes, it is decreed that the bishops will hold a council in every province twice a year.  The metropolitan bishop is to give notice of these councils to the bishops.  The first will be in the third week of Easter so that it will be finished by the fourth week of Pentecost.  The second will be on the fifteenth of September.  These dates ensure that any priest, deacon, or anyone else who thinks that they were unjustly treated may lay their cases before these councils.  It is unlawful, however, to hold such councils without the presence of the province’s metropolitan bishop.

Canon XXI
A bishop may not be transferred from one parish to another.  Regardless of his own preference, the compulsion of the congregation, or the control of the bishops, he must remain in the church to which he was called by God from the beginning.  He will not be transferred from it according to the decision adopted earlier on this subject.

Canon XXII
A bishop should not go to a city outside his own jurisdiction to appoint priests or deacons to places outside his control unless he has the consent of the area’s proper bishop.  Anything a bishop does without authorization in a province outside his jurisdiction is void.  In addition, a council must punish such action.

It is unlawful for a bishop, even as his life draws to a close, to appoint his own successor.  If he does this, his appointment is void.  Church law must be obeyed.  Only a council held under the jurisdiction of the bishops may appoint a bishop.  Only they have the authority to appoint a man who is worthy to succeed a bishop who has fallen asleep and rests from his labors.

Canon XXIV
It is right that what belongs to the church be preserved for the church with all diligence, good conscience, and faith in God.  For God is the overseer and judge of all things.  Church property should be administered under the authority and judgment of the bishop who also cares for the people of the congregation and their souls.  It should be made clear, however, what is the church’s property.  The priests and deacons should know exactly what belongs to the church; nothing should be concealed from them so that when the bishop departs this life, the church’s property will not be embezzled or lost.  Furthermore, no one should disturb the private property of the bishop on the pretense that it belongs to the church.  Rather, the bishop may will his private property to whomever he chooses, while the church’s property remains with the church.  This is pleasing to God because neither will the church suffer loss, nor will the bishop be injured under the pretext of the church’s interest.  In this way, his family will avoid lawsuits and he will not be reproached after his death.

Canon XXV
The bishop has power over the church’s funds so that he may distribute them with all piety and godly reverence to anyone in need.  If he has any need, he may take what he requires for his own needs and those of the brothers living with him.  In this way, they will lack nothing.  As the godly apostle says, “Having food and clothing, let us be content.” If, however, the bishop is not content with these things but applies church funds to his own private use and fails together with the priests and deacons to manage the church’s revenues and farm rentals, he must submit to an investigation of the province’s council.  If he gives authority over the funds to his own family and relatives, brothers or sons, so that the church’s funds are fraudulently handled, he must submit to an investigation.  If, on the other hand, the bishop or his priests are defamed for appropriating to themselves what belongs to the church (whether from lands or any other church resources) and the poor are thereby left in need and accusations and disgrace are brought in connection with the church’s funds and its managers, let them undergo the correction that a holy council determines is right.

Revision of NPNF, series 2, vol. 14, pp. 108-121 by LSS, GLT, and JCB

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