The Valid Law of the Church: the Problem of Changing Church Canons


In the article from the standpoint of the analysis of the structure and status of the actual law of religious communities (denominations) is done by the author and the problem of the existence of religious law is actualized. As a result of the analysis, religious and religious-legal rules have to be differentiated as separate types of rule. Also their legal attributes and characteristics are determined.

The analysis of religious legal rules allows us to conclude that they include almost all the features that are traditionally attributed to the law. The attributes are: 1) mandatory (imperative) nature; 2) foundation and guarantee by Church; 3) legal norms set; 4) formal determination (absolutism); 5) multiple application.

The right of the authorized representation of the Church’s will is vested in a whole system of church rule-making councils. In particular, the following institutes are included – bishops, Church councils and collegial authorities of church management of different levels, Church organizations (legal entities acting within a certain religious community) and, finally, the general public of the Church.

An obvious example of the real valid law in the ecclesiastical environment may be the bestowal of the ecclesiastical status of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. The Church division and parallel existence of many Orthodox religious communities of various jurisdictions (including self-proclaimed ones) in Ukraine has been a powerful destabilizing factor for a long time. There was a strong social request for the achievement of Orthodox Church (OC) unity, which was supported by the state authorities. The final stage of the long-term process of obtaining autocephaly began in 2016, when the highest authorities of Ukraine were on a regular basis (similar appeals were made since 1993) appealed to the Ecumenical Patriarch with a request for the OC in Ukraine to be fully independent, and finished successfully in January 2019 by signing and delivering the Patriarchal Tomos (Decree).

The static and dynamic elements of the ecclesiastical law are considered through the prism of the dichotomy of absolute and relative rules of life of religious communities (denominations). The origins of the ecclesiastical law as the law-making will of various subjects of the church’s social space are analysed. The events of granting the Decree of Autocephaly (Independence) for Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) are determined as a demonstration of the real valid law of the Church.

Keywords: religious rule; valid law; religious communities, canonical norm; decree; autocephalous church; origins of the ecclesiastical law

Author Biography

SERHII MISEVYCH, Yuriy Fedkovich Chernivtsi National University, Ukraine

PhD, Associate Professor,

Associate Professor of the Department of Human Rights,

Yuriy Fedkovych Chernivtsi National University, Ukraine

 ResearcherID: D-4714-2016 


1. Bulgakov, S. (1991). Pravoslavie. Ocherki uchenija pravoslavnoj cerkvi [Orthodoxy. Essays About the Study of the Orthodox Church]. Kyiv: Lybid'. (In Russian).

2. (1974). Kanony ili kniga pravil sviatykh soborov vselenskikh i pomestnykh i sviatykh otets [Canon or the Book of Rules of Saint Ecumenical and Local Councils, and of Holy Fathers]. Montreal. (In Russian).

3. Marchenko, M. N. (1998). Obshhaja teorija gosudarstva i prava [General Theory of State and Law]. Moskow. Zertsalo. (In Russian).

4. Pavlov, A.S. (1897). Konspektirovannyj kurs cerkovnogo prava [Recapitulated Course of the Ecclesiastical Law]. Moscow. (In Russian).

5. Pokrovskij, A.I. (1926). Ob izmenjaemosti cerkovnyh kanonov [About the Variability of Church Canons/Laws/] Samara. (In Russian).

6. Poptodorov, R. (1995). Subornoto nachalo v zhivota, ustrojstvo i upravlenieto na tserkvata prez pervite tri veka (istoriko-kanonichesko izsledvane [The Ecumenic Beginning of the Life, Structure and Management of the Church in the First Three Centuries (Historical-Canonical Survey)]. Sofia: Ljubomudrie. (In Bulgarian).

7. (1957). Pravoslavna vira: poslannia skhidnykh patriyarkhiv [The Orthodox Faith: Eastern Patriarchs' Epistles]. Winnipeg. (In Ukrainian).

8. Bublyk, S. A. (1998). Relihiieznavstvo [Religious Studies]. Kyiv: Jurinkom Inter. (In Ukrainian).

9. Turkalo, Ya.K. (1974). Narys istorii vselens'kykh soboriv (325-787) [The Study of History of the Ecumenical Councils (325-787)]. Brussels. (In Ukrainian).
How to Cite
MISEVYCH, SERHII. The Valid Law of the Church: the Problem of Changing Church Canons. Ehrlich's Journal - Ерліхівський журнал, [S.l.], v. 3, p. 38-45, june 2019. ISSN 2617-975X. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 27 feb. 2024. doi: