The pericope has been long interpreted by the Catholic Church as a proof text for a central authority. Churches like the WT repeat this claim. However, reading the text without this coloring reveals something very different.
The story starts with Paul and Barnabas going to the Antioch church and there they encounter Pharisee Christians from Jerusalem (15:24) contradicting the doctrine held by the Antioch church. The church leaders in Antioch send Paul and Barnabas to go to the church these guys were from (Jerusalem) and find out if they had in fact sent them with what was deemed heretical doctrine by Paul. They are greeted and a short airing of opinions ensues. Then the leaders of the Jerusalem church make clear they in fact had not sent the guys and they did not agree with them (again 15:24). Then James declares his opinion is that the Pharisee brothers needed to accept the changes but at the same time thought it best if the Antioch church would accommodate the Jewish Christians on matters that they (the Pharisees) regarded as "essential/necessary" The Jerusalem church then sent 2 guys along with Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch to ensure the relationship between churches was 'back on track'.
IMO the story was created was to create the impression that these powerful churches had in fact been unified at an early date (6:5 also) not to suggest Jerusalem was in control. However, soon after, the Catholic church used it to support the role of Rome and the apostolic succession doctrine. The long Catholic tradition has widely influenced the interpretation of this story. It has also influenced the translating with words like "commanded" rather than 'Instructed' and James saying I "judge" rather than 'in my opinion'. (Unless we are conceding James was in charge of all Christians)
BTW, Paul effectively denies this version of history in Gal 2.
Also Acts 21:21 relates a slightly different version wherein Paul has to be informed of the Jerusalem letters distributed rather than Paul being present and involved in the distribution of the letters. This contradiction reflects the complicated textual history of the work.
As an aside, this pericope has many textural variants. A number of manuscripts changed the list of necessary things or preserved an older form. And what also cues me editing is involved is the simple change from a definite article before each item in the list in verse 20 to no articles in 29. A small thing but reflecting a different hand IMO.
For a modern student of religious studies, the text represents a Proto-Orthodox polemical attempt to revise the story of Christian beginnings. The pericope is a 2nd century retrojection of unity between the historically divided branches of Christianity.
The story certainly reflects real issues of the day that divided the churches and it is possible that some early effort was made to find a middle ground. Paulinist positions on sexuality (real or perceived) and freedom from ceremonial taboos were upsetting Jewish Christian converts around Jerusalem. (Acts 21:21) It appears to me however that this argument was of secondary importance to the author of Acts 15. The subject merely served as part of the plot, as a literary device. The historical divisions over Jewish views of ritual and sex were well known to the second century readers, (in fact little had changed by the time of the writing of Acts) and would serve the story purpose of uniting the branches of Christianity of the early 2nd century.
Some might add a secondary purpose, that of supporting a central hierarchal church structure. I am not presently convinced this is evidenced by the story details, but it certainly was used that way and has influenced the translating.