“Faithful churches cultivate character.” Thus writes Concordia Seminary Professor Joel Biermann in his book, A CASE FOR CHARACTER: Towards a Lutheran Virtue Ethics. 1
Rev. Dr. Biermann recounts how Lutherans are unfairly portrayed as soteriological reductionists pitting law and gospel against one another. Some critics say Lutheran theology and ethical teaching simply don’t fit together. Biermann admits some Lutheran preachers have indeed spent too little pulpit time on clear Scriptures regarding how we Christians ought to live.
Dr. Biermann’s prescriptions for re-emphasizing our Lutheran Confessions’ solid commitment to character and virtue ethics are valuable. His book’s message is also timely as we witness widely-known men losing leadership positions due to their wrongful actions toward women as revealed via the #metoo movement.
Joel reminds fellow pastors, “Christian people need to be trained in virtue. A noble character does not simply happen.” He also believes community can still shape and sustain a moral life in believers. He concludes: “It is the faithful church, the lowly congregation of gathered believers that is this community.”
When it comes to shaping and sustaining ethics and character, Dr. Biermann concludes: Congregations Matter!
VIRTUE ETHICS AND MORAL CHARACTER
What is virtue ethics?
Virtue ethics emphasizes moral character more than duties or rules. Virtue ethics – and moral character – are appropriate filters for our congregations to use to identify potential nominees for the position of Synod President (SP).
What is character?
Professor Biermann writes: “Individual traits or habits of thinking or behaving make up the composite of factors that combine to be described as a person’s character.”
CHARACTER IS REVEALED…
…IN A CHURCH LEADER’S THINKING ABOUT CENTRALIZED CONTROL…
Congregations Matter proudly aligns with C.F.W. Walther in standing against heirarchialism. Congregations are advised to examine what potential SP nominees have habitually said about congregational autonomy vis-a-vis centralized hierarchical control. Walther warned congregations away from power-hungry church leaders with domineering personalities. CLICK HERE to read more about this in the CTCR (Commission on Theology and Church Relations) document on The Divine Call.
…AND IN A CHURCH LEADER’S BEHAVIOR…
Some Americans participate in ‘virtue-signaling.’ We do it when we mention we recycle or when we wear ‘I VOTED’ stickers. Some Lutheran church leaders oddly take ‘virtue-signaling’ in an opposite direction. If our Synod President bellows, “I’m a sinner!” some smile at his candor. But, don’t we also want our Synod President to personally excel in what Dr. Biermann calls ‘conforming righteousness,’ i.e., right thinking and living?
Congregations ought to consider habits of thinking and behaving in anyone they consider for President. Walther warned against vices such as obstinacy or drunkenness. In particular, congregations must not nominate any clergyman who has exhibited coarse talk about, or harassment of, women.
… AND, IN A CHURCH LEADER’S OUTLOOK
Nobody wants to follow a leader who habitually projects a DARK view of our future — we’re sick of dark demographic lectures and predictions! Presidential nominees should express confidence in our future, in District and CUS Presidents, pastors, called workers, and laypeople.
Our next SP should keep financial promises to our Seminaries, send all disaster relief donations to those in need, and provide clear financial reports in numerical columns. Stop cloaking bad finances from congregations under so-called Executive Session white-out.
STAY TUNED FOR SOME EXCITING INTRODUCTIONS
Congregations Matter has been combing the country seeking Godly LCMS church leaders we believe embody the thinking, behavior and outlook our Synod needs.
In the coming months, we will be telling you about a few outstanding Presidential prospects we have identified who would restore our Synod to its historic role of providing congregations with advice, encouragement, and resources to carry out their evangelical role of teaching and baptizing in their communities, as they see best fit for their own circumstances.
LET’S TAKE BACK OUR SYNOD AND MAKE IT BETTER THAN EVER
As you consider whether or not to nominate someone for SP, ask yourself: would I be proud to someday tell others this man is our LCMS President? If the answer coming into your mind is not a resounding yes, keep looking.
Character, ethics and a positive outlook are essential in our next President.
We can’t wait to tell you about several outstanding church leaders we have identified! Our future can be brighter than ever.
- Biermann, Joel D. A CASE FOR CHARACTER: Towards a Lutheran Virtue Ethics. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014.