The letter had no effect. To the Church the question of the “consubstantiality” ( homoousia ) as against the mere similarity ( homoiousia ) of the Son and the Father was vital both theologically and politically. If Christ was not God, the whole structure of Christian doctrine would begin to crack; and if division were permitted on this question, chaos of belief might destroy the unity and authority of the Church, and therefore its value as an aide to the state. As the controversy spread, setting the Greek East aflame, Constantine resolved to end it by calling the first ecumenical- universal- council of the Church. He summoned all bishops to meet in 325 at Bithynian Nicaea, near his capital Nicomedia, and provided funds for all their expenses. Not less than 318 bishops came, “attended” says one of them, “by a vast concourse of the lower clergy”: the statement reveals the immense growth of the Church. Most of the bishops were from the Eastern provinces; many Western dioceses ignored the controversy; and Pope Silvester I, detained by illness, was content to be represented by some priests. The Council met in the hall of an imperial palace. Constantine presided and opened the proceedings by a brief appeal to the bishops to restore the unity of the Church. He “listened patiently to the debates,” reports Eusebius, “moderated the violence of the contending parties,” and himself joined in the argument. Arius reaffirmed his view that Christ was a created being, not equal to the Father, but “divine only by participation.” Clever questioners forced him to admit that if Christ was a creature, and had had a beginning, he could change; and that if he could change he might pass from virtue to vice. The answers were logical, honest, and suicidal. Athanasius, the eloquent and pugnacious archdeacon whom Alexander had brought with him as a theological sword, made it clear that if Christ and the Holy Spirit were not of one substance with the Father, polytheism would triumph. He conceded the difficulty of picturing three distinct persons in one God, but argued that reason must bow to the mystery of the Trinity. All but seventeen of the bishops agreed with him, and signed a statement expressing his view. The supporters of Arius agreed to sign if they might add one iota, changing homoousion to homoiousion. The Council refused, and issued with the Emperor’s approval the following creed: