Understand Round Table Discussion | an Introduction to Round Table Discussion

An Introduction to round table discussion

The Council of Hertford was the first general council of the Anglo-Saxon Church. It was convened in Anglo-Saxon Herutford, most likely modern Hertford, in 672 by Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury. The Venerable Bede is the historical source for this council, as he included its text in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People.

The council was attended by a number of bishops from across Anglo-Saxon England. Bede also records royal attendance, as King Ecgfrith of Northumbria was present. The Council of Hertford acted as a milestone in the organisation of the Anglo-Saxon Church, as the decrees passed by its delegates focused on issues of authority and structure within the church. The council helped achieve unification in the English Church.

Creed of round table discussion

The chapters discussed are summarised as follows:

Chapter 1

That Easter Day is to be kept at the same time, namely on the Sunday after the fourteenth day of the moon of the first month. This was confirming the English adherence to the Roman calculation of Easter, as decided at the Synod of Whitby in 664.

Chapter Two

That no bishop intrude into the diocese of another bishop, and rather be content with their own diocesan rule.

Chapter Three

That bishops are not to interfere in any way with monasteries, nor forcibly take any monastic property. Rumble has emphasised that this decree still allowed the local bishop to participate in the election of abbots in his diocese thereby not disregarding the right given by the Rule of St Benedict.

Chapter Four

That monks are not to wander from place to place, meaning between monasteries. They may only do so if they have letters dimissory from their own abbot.

Chapter Five

That clergy are not to leave their own bishop nor wander about at will. Clergy are not to be received anywhere without letters commendatory from his own bishop. The receiver and the received risk excommunication if this is not obeyed. Godfrey has argued that chapters four and five, concerning wandering clerics and monks, were significant because they indicated the end of the migratory stage in the Conversion, and the establishment of a stable diocesan system.

Chapter Six

That travelling bishops and clergy are to be content with the hospitality offered them, and not to exercise any priestly function without the bishop of the diocese's permission.

Chapter Seven

That a synod is to occur twice yearly. However, this proposal prompted discussion and after hindrances emerged, it was thus decided that the bishops were to meet annually on 1 August at Clofesho. The location of Clofesho is unknown, and Cubitt has demonstrated that in practice this ruling was not followed.

Chapter Eight

That no bishop is to claim precedence over another bishop out of ambition, but that rank is according to order of consecration.

Chapter Nine

That more bishops shall be created as the number of the faithful increases. This measure was discussed but no decision was reached at this synod. This marked the introduction of Theodore's plan to create more dioceses, a policy which he continually advocated.

Chapter Ten

Concerning marriage. Reasserting that nothing be allowed but lawful wedlock.

Attendees of round table discussion

Besides Theodore, Bede records four other bishops being present. These were: Bisi, bishop of the East Angles; Putta, bishop of Rochester; Leuthere, bishop of the West Saxons; and Winfrith, bishop of Mercia. Wilfrid of Northumbria was not present but was represented by proctors. As well as the bishops, many teachers of the church attended, and Titill the notary was present to document the decisions made. Despite there being few bishops in attendance, these bishops came from across Anglo-Saxon England, so the council was national in scope.

In the chronological summary of his Ecclesiastical History, Bede records that King Ecgfrith was present at the council. This information is absent from Bede's main account of the synod in IV.5, and details of Ecgfrith's role at Hertford are unknown. Despite Ecgfrith's presence, Hertford was ecclesiastical in focus. Bede attests that it was Theodore who summoned the council and had authority over its proceedings. Bede describes Theodore as the first of the archbishops whom the whole English Church consented to obey. Theodore is depicted by Bede as an authority figure at Hertford, convening the synod and dictating to the notary Titill that which needed to be recorded.

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