The term Ecumenical is a term used for the 3 creeds: the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, & the Athanasian Creed, as well as for the 7 councils of the church. The quality within them that makes them ecumenical is that they have always everywhere been accepted by all Christians in the western church (they comply with the Vincentian Canon), and thus they have in some form been used in liturgy as well as to fend off heresy. The views & the methodology of every ecumenical product such as the bible, the councils, & the creeds, presents the church with the reality that no one person, or no one denomination, has the authority to make up or to individually define the Christian faith. While the whole truth may be found in scripture, the proper interpretation of its content can only be sure if it is the same as that truth that was passed on to the apostles & from the apostles to the church. The creeds assert that there exist not only Christian facts recorded by the apostles, but that they fit together in an apostolic formula. For any truth claim to be apostolic, it must then come out of the whole church, which is the meaning of the word Greek word catholicons or ecumenical.
The Canonical Aspect of the Ecumenical Creeds (regula fidei)
The role of canonicity:
Thechurch has always needed a rule of faith (regula fidei). “Rule” refers not to a law, but rather measuring stick, this rule is a necessary means employed to measure the validity of all Christian truth claims.
The 1st rule of faith is the scripture:
The bible the first & foremost measure (canon) for what the church has called apostolic tradition (paradosis). The Bible’s content is deemed by the whole church (ecumenical- catholicons- of the whole) to be the measure by which all other truth claims regarding God are measured. Hence, the role of scripture is to serve as a constitution of sorts to serve the church in its discernment of truth. In short, a claim must be biblical in order to be Christian. While this is true, it is also true that the bible is a large and comes book, one in which one can easily over emphasize some truths and total ignore others. Hence, we need a smaller, more concise rule of faith to deal with Christianity as well as the bible itself.
The 2nd rule of faith is the 3 ecumenical creeds:
These short statements serve as not only summary of the scriptures, and thus as a grid by which the proper use of the 1st rule of faith can be determined. In these creeds the church Fathers have spoken with one voice, & delivered that which was given to them (the paradosis) in such a way that Christianity cannot be misunderstood. Therefore, not only has the church identified and gathered together all of the books of the bible & preserved them for the world, but it has also given the world an interpretive grid & summary of the bible’s content (there are other rules of faith also, rules that if left out of one belief system leaves the Christian impoverished).