CARTER, THOMAS HENRY: United Brethren; b. in Carroll Co., Tenn., Jan. 1, 1851; entered the ministry, 1869; elected bishop, 1905.



  1. Synods before and under Cyprian.
  2. Synods during the Donatist Controversy.
  3. Synods in Connection with the Pelagian Controversy.
  4. Concluding Synods.

Carthage, the ancient rival of Rome, preserved a remnant of its former greatness in the commanding position assumed by its bishops, at least from the beginning of the third century, in the North-African Church. By right of their see, they were ex officio primates of their province, while this position in Numidia, and later in the other provinces of North Africa, went by seniority. But many bishops of these provinces paid great heed to the counsels of the bishop of the capital, at least in Cyprian's time, and even earlier than that had formed the habit of meeting there for conference. The decisions taken in regard to the controversies agitating the African Church, especially the Donatist and Pelagian, were of permanent and far-reaching importance for the development of theology.

I. Synods before and under Cyprian:

(1) That under Bishop Agrippinus (c. 220), to whose decision Cyprian appealed in the controversy about baptism by heretics. (2) That held c. 240 at Lambese in Numidia (or Carthage), which condemned the heretic Privatus. (3) The first under Cyprian after his return to Carthage, just after Easter, 251. After a long debate, it decided that the lapsed, especially those who had offered sacrifice, should be restored only on an extended penance, except in danger of death, while the libellatici (see LAPSED) might, provisionally at least, be at once received. It seems to have been customary at this time to hold an annual Easter synod; and at least one (4) is known in 252, to which probably the letter of Gyprian and sixty-six bishops to Fidus (Epist., lxiv.) refers; here Privatus attempted to have his case reopened, but was refused and joined the opposition that set up Fortunatus as a rival bishop. (5) In 253, with reference to the new persecution under Gallus, the procedure in the case of the lapsed was modified, so that, if truly penitent, they might be at once restored (Epist., lvii.). Subsequent synods dealt with baptism by heretics, concerning which the African bishops held strict views: (6) One attended by thirty-one bishops in 255 (Epist., lxx.). (7) A more general one, of seventy-one bishops, from Numidia as well, in the spring of 256 ((Epist., lxxiii.). (8) One of eighty-seven bishops, this time including the Mauritanians, in September of the same year. The views expressed in the last-named were controverted by Augustine, De baptismo contra Donatistas, vi., vii.

II. Synods during the Donatist Controversy:

(1) In 312, composed of seventy bishops, opponents of CŠcilian, who was excommunicated. (2) One of 270 Donatist bishops, about 330, which showed a conciliatory spirit, and sanctioned the admission of traditores to communion. The succeeding synods for some time are all on the Catholic side, and show a more or less severe attitude toward the Donatiats according to the position taken at the time by the schismatics. (3) The so-called "First Council of Carthage," between 345 and 348, attended by fifty bishops, at the close of a heavy persecution. This, like 8, 10, 11, 15, and 20, dealt only cursorily with the Donatist question, while 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 18, as far as we know, did not touch upon it at all. Under Bishop Genethlius of Carthage, who was much esteemed by the Donatists, took place (4) a synod in the "PrŠtorium," and a year later, or in 390, (5) the so-called "Second Council of Carthage," attended by sixty bishops. Under his successor, Aurelius, twenty synods are said to have been held, in the most important of which Augustine participated. In a general African council held at Hippo in 393 it was decided that the various provinces should take turns in holding such general gatherings; but this system was difficult of execution, since Mauritania and Tripolis were too distant, and the latter had only five episcopal sees. Among such general councils may be reckoned, besides that of Hippo which began the series, that of Hadrumetum, 394, those numbered here 3, 5, 8, 11, 12, 15, and 20, and that of Mileve, 402. In 407 it was decided to abandon the attempt and call them when and where it seemed expedient, while the provincial synods were to go on as before. (6) and (7) Two synods held respectively on June 26, 394, and June 26, 397, of which little is known.

What is known as the Breviarium canonum Hipponensium corresponds substantially with (8) the Carthaginiense III. of the Spanish collection, Aug. 28, 397. The canons of 393 and 397, confirmed at Mileve in 402, give a comprehensive view of the church life of the time. The most famous is that containing the list of Scriptural books, and dealing with the reading of the martyrologies. The position of the presbyters in relation to the bishops is restricted, aggressions by bishops on neighboring dioceses reprobated, and the whole conduct of the clergy within the bounds of the Church regulated. In regard to the Donatist matter, a change is made, allowing clerics coming from the schism to exercise their function, under


certain conditions, where formerly they had been relegated to lay communion. Legations from the court often appeared, as at (9) a synod of Apr. 27, 399, when the right of asylum in churches was considered. From 401 on more attention is paid to the Donatist controversy, at first in a conciliatory spirit; in that year two synods were held (10) on June 16 and (11) on Sept. 13, both of which occupied themselves also with the removal of the remains of paganism. (12) The general synod of Aug. 25, 403, laid down a formula to be accepted by the Donatists which only increased the bitterness, and the following synod (13) of June 16, 404, appealed to the emperor to repress the schismatics by legal measures. This was done, and the next synod (14), Aug. 23, 405, returned thanks to him. At the general synod (15) of June 13, 407, measures were adopted to facilitate the reception into the Church of entire schismatic communities; and, after the issue of an imperial decree which mitigated the former severity, both on (16) June 16 and (17) Oct. 13, 408, delegations were sent to impress the ecclesiastical view on the emperor. The only extant provision of (18) the provincial synod of June 15, 409, has no direct connection with the burning question; but after the issue of a decree of toleration, the next (19), on June 14, 410, sent another delegation to the emperor, and this time with success. (20) The synod of May 1, 418, is occupied again with the reception of Donatist communities and the duty of the conversion of heretics; while some of its provisions look forward to the next division.

III. Synods in Connection with the Pelagian Controversy.


IV. Concluding Synods:

At the head of these comes the frequently cited synod of 419, attended by 217 bishops, which held two sessions, May 25 and 30 (designated in the Hispana as Carthaginiense VI. and VII.). It codified and to some extent shortened the preceding legislation. Part of its work dealt with the claims of the Roman See, based improperly on the decrees of the First Council of NicŠa. It drew up also a reply to a letter of Pope Boniface, who had laid four points before itŚthe question of appeals, the journeys of the African bishops to the imperial court, the right of excommunicated clerics to apply for restoration to neighboring bishops, and the conduct of the bishop of Sicca, in deposing a priest who had appealed to Rome. The council temporized on the first and third points, agreed to the restoration of the priest, though not in the same diocese. A still firmer tone was taken toward Rome by the synod which (after 422) wrote to pope Celestine in connection with the priest above mentioned, which showed that the ancient independence and conciliar spirit of the African Church were still unbroken.

But with the invasion of the Vandals from the west, threatening Carthage in 439, the existence of the Church of North Africa drew to a close. In the face of such dangers as the persecutions of the Arian kings brought upon the Christians of those parts, minor differences disappeared. The conference on religion held in 484 did not give them much relief; but more was accomplished by the synod of Feb. 5, 525, in the reign of Hilderic, attended by sixty bishops from different provinces. After the annexation of North Africa by the Byzantine government, Bishop Reparatus held a synod of 217 bishops in 535; it dealt with Rome about the reception of converted Arians into the service of the Church, regulated the relation of monasteries to the bishops, and sent a deputation to Justinian to ask the restoration of property and privileges. Thenceforth the history of the North-African Church is merged in the general development of the state religion, and has no more separate importance before its final extinction by the Arabs.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: For the canons of the synods consult: W. Beveridge, Synodikon, sive pandectť canonum. Oxford, 1672 (includes the canons of the African synods); G. D. Fuchs, Bibliothek der Kirchenversammlungen, iii. 1-476, Leipsic, 1783. On the general question consult: F. Maassen, Geschichte der Quellen und der Literatur des kanonischen Rechts, i. 149 sqq., Graz, 1870; J. Lloyd, The North African Church, London, 1870; O. Ritschl, Cyprian von Karthogo, pp. 153 sqq., G÷ttingen, 1885; Hefele, Conciliengeschichte, vols. i., ii. passim, Eng. transl., vols. i., ii. passim; the brothers Ballerini in Appendix to the Opera of Leo I., vol. i., chapp. iii., xxi.-xxix., Venice, 1757. Detailed treatment may be found in Neander, Christian Church, vols. i., ii. passim, consult Index under "Councils and Synods." Short discussions are also in Schaff, Christian Church, iii. 793, 798; Moeller, Christian Church, i. 263, 267, 332, 447, 452-453, 457; DCA, i. 36-39; and literature under DONATISM.


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