From the Editor

The Virtue of Collegiality

Michael L. Sherer

Michael L. Sherer

Last month in this space I wrote about “the virtue of power-sharing.” I said Lutherans should cherish their heritage of hammering out decisions in democratic, sometimes messy, ways, without entrusting the process to “experts” presuming to speak for us.

This month I want to present the other side of the coin. While Lutherans are right to cherish their independence, they invite risk when doing so. While we properly celebrate our Christian freedom, we Lutherans sometimes use that as an excuse for fracturing the church community with our Lone Ranger behavior.

Lutherans have no pope to mandate uniformity. Freeing as that can be, lack of central ecclesiastical authority leads to unintended negative consequences.

Lutherans have a history of squabbling and splitting into factions. The spectacle of disunity is disheartening, and certainly no encouragement to those viewing our faith community from the outside.

Lutherans in the Twin Cities have been known to manifest themselves in large congregations, a phenomenon which brings with it the temptation to disregard partnerships with others in the local, district/ synod, and national expressions of the church. (There are notable positive exceptions among our large congregations.)

There is also a tendency among us in the Lutheran family to behave as though we have nothing to learn from others in the broader Christian community. While there is much to celebrate about our Lutheran distinctives, when we pretend we have cornered divine truth, we’re simply being arrogant.

Collegiality is a virtue. Lutherans in particular, and Christians in general, have not always recognized its value. “For freedom Christ has set us free,” the Apostle Paul says. But we are properly reminded that freedom dare not become an excuse for license.

During June I sat in an assembly where one speaker reminded the participants that Lutherans in Minnesota have a presence that is not reflected in a unified public voice.

The ancient Greek city-states couldn’t find a way to work together. It led to their disappearance. What will the Lutherans do?