Catholic and Orthodox epologists often cite the “Council of Jerusalem” (Act 15) as a template for ecumenical councils. They also cite it to illustrate the insufficiency of Scripture. But that’s out-of-context.
i) What's the problem which this meeting was intended to resolve? The problem was an apparent disagreement within the leadership of the NT church. In the nature of the case, only the leadership can resolve a disagreement within its own ranks.
If you have a disagreement between two or more leaders, then that’s something they can only settle among themselves. That’s not about the relationship of the “hierarchy” to the “laity.”
ii) At issue were the Judaizers, who took issue with the Pauline mission. And this raised two issues:
a) Did their views accurately reflect the views of James and the Jerusalem church?
b) Did they accurately report back to James and the Jerusalem church the views of Paul and the Pauline missionaries?
iii) To some extent, consultation with the church in Jerusalem was a fact-finding mission. It would give the principal parties an opportunity to learn firsthand each other’s position
That would also serve to show whether or not there really was a fundamental disagreement between the principal parties.
iv) It’s also striking that this conference was held in open session. Indeed, the laity had a hand in formulating the policy.
v) In addition, the final policy was a temporary pragmatic compromise.