SYNOD (Gr. cwoSos), a term denoting an assembly of ecclesiastical officials legally convoked to discuss and decide points of faith, discipline and morals. It is practically synonymous with the word council (q.v.); concilium is used in the same technical sense by Tertullian c. 200, and criivodos a century or so later in the Apostolic canons. In time, however, the word council came to be restricted to oecumenical gatherings, while synod was applied to meetings of the eastern or western branches of the Church (the first council of Constantinople was originally a mere council or synod of the East), or to councils of the Reformed churches, e.g. the Synod of Dort. Provincial synods were held in the 2nd century, and were not completely organized before the advent of oecumenical councils. The two terms are still used side by side; thus there are patriarchal, national and primatial councils, as well as provincial councils (under the metropolitan of a province) and diocesan synods, consisting of the clergy of a diocese and presided over by the bishop (or the vicar-general). The supreme governing body in the Russian branch of the Orthodox Eastern Church (q.v.) is known as the Holy Synod. In the Presbyterian churches (see PRESBYTERIANISM) a synod is an assembly containing representatives of several presbyteries and intermediate between these and the General Assembly; similarly in the Wesleyan and other Methodist churches the synod is the meeting of the district which links the circuits with the conference. The term is not in use in self-governing churches like the Congregationalists and Baptists, though these from time to time hold councils or assemblies (national and international), for conference and fellowship without any legislative power.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)