Saturday, March 27, 2010

Join Us at Zion for Holy Week

We're not expecting the Peoria Journal Star to show up for Palm Sunday like they did last year.

But there is room for you as Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Peoria begins Holy Week with a Palm Procession from the Upper Parish Hall into the main church at 9 o'clock in the morning. The celebration quickly grows more somber, as our remembrace of the parade of Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (Zion!) quickly moves to the reading of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to St. Luke.

The liturgy concludes with Holy Communion. Join us for fellowship and refreshments afterwards. And you can even join our Sunday Forum as we aim to conclude our current study, How to Use The Lutheran Study Bible.

Zion is located on the north-east corner of Easton and Hayes (or one block west of the intersection of Western and Jefferson) on the South Side of Peoria. (Here's a map.) There's plenty of parking in our lot across the street.

Our public Holy Week observances continue with a Healing Service on Wednesday at 11 am.

The Three Holy Days begin with the Maundy Thursday celebration beginning at 7 o'clock in the evening. The evening liturgy includes Corporate Confession and Absolution, the Lord's Supper, and the Stripping of the Altar for Good Friday.

On Friday we gather at the foot of the Cross to witness Christ's glory while hearing the Passion according to St. John, beginning at Noon.

And then we wait for the Easter celebration to begin at sunrise Easter Sunday.

Click here for the details as Zion Church celebrates the heart of the Christian Faith -- the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

We'd be glad to have you worship with us!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lutheran CORE Illinois Launched

Last Friday evening and Saturday morning (March 19-20, 2010) some 80 Illinois Lutherans, laity and clergy from the territories of all three ELCA Synods (with a couple dozen more expressing regrets that they were unable to attend), nearly all feeling the need of conference and mutual encouragement in the wake of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly's actions, gathered at American Lutheran Church in Rantoul, Illinois, to form Lutheran CORE Illinois.

As Chair of its initial Steering Committee, I sought to cast a vision for CORE Illinois after the host pastor, Dr. Jeffray Greene, opened the session with Responsive Prayer II (Suffrages) from the Lutheran Book of Worship. I sought to emphasize first that we found ourselves in this need not solely because others had taken the church in a wrong direction, but also because we had not heeded the signs and warnings that had been raised before us. Indeed, error had entered the ELCA "by our fault, our own fault, our own most grievous fault." And that we engage in this endeavor first confessing our own sin, repenting, and receiving forgiveness for our part in letting the church get off track.

I reminded the convocation of our own history as American Lutherans, of our long-held desires to come together into one church, of our ability to work together on important matters --theology, missionary work at home and abroad, relief and charity -- even when we were in separate Lutheran church bodies, meaning that as some separated from the ELCA while others remained, new denominational lines need not be walls preventing us from ministering together in and from Illinois whenever we can. Lutheran councils, coalitions, shared ministries all have a long history prior to the formation of the ELCA in 1988. We must do that again as Lutheranism in Illinois and North America is reconfigured.

Pr. Ken Kimball of the continental Lutheran CORE Steering Committee brought greetings from Lutheran CORE and our sister movement, Call to Faithfulness, noting some of CTF's successes and challenges within the Northeastern Iowa Synod. He, too, shared some of the vision of Lutheran CORE for the future of North American Lutheranism.

I read a letter from Bishop Paull Spring, Lutheran CORE's Chair. Some comments and questions from the assembly (including other members of Lutheran CORE working groups) were offered, a proposed Constitution for CORE Illinois was briefly introduced and then, following Compline, the convocation recessed for the evening.

The convocation reconvened Saturday morning with Responsive Prayer I (Suffrages), and we spent some time reviewing and amending the proposed constitution. Yes, there were a few moments it may have seemed we were getting bogged down in details. But in the end, the convocation unanimously approved a good-enough constitution. Then the following were elected to the Steering Committee:
  • Pr. Steven Tibbetts, Zion, Peoria, Chair
  • Ralph Cox, American, Rantoul, Vice-Chair*
  • Lynn Bivens, Bethel, Bartonville, Secretary
  • Mike Kasten, Good Shepherd, Champaign, Treasurer*
  • Pr. Jeffray Greene, American, Rantoul
  • Jim Taeger, Prince of Peace, St. Joseph
  • Pr. Gary Blobaum, St. Paul, Oregon*
  • Pr. Jeff Cottingham, First, Paxton*
  • Judy Rademaker, Immanuel, Flatville*
(*-elected for 1 year; for the rest and henceforth, all elections are for 2-year terms)

After a brief review of some possible Synod Assembly resolutions and highlighting some mission and ministry groups that are supportive of Lutheran CORE's vision, the convocation broke into smaller groups -- those from the Northern Illinois and Metro Chicago Synods, those in the Central/Southern Illinois Synod intending to remain, and those in C/SIS expecting to depart -- to begin networking and discuss common concerns that CORE Illinois could help facilitate.

The convocation closed with Holy Communion, Pr. Jim Lehmann (Immanuel, Flatville) preaching from the LBW daily lectionary's Gospel, St. Mark 9:14-29 (Jesus healing of a boy possessed by an evil spirit) and Pr. Greene presiding.

Now the work of faithful ministry begins. Illinois Lutherans -- pastors, laity, congregations -- who support the goals and principles of Lutheran CORE are encouraged to contact the Core Illinois Steering Committee that we can get started working together.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


It happened to me again recently. I handed my business card to someone from Europe, he looked at my name, and immediately commented on it being like the country. You know: Tibbetts; Tibet.

Mom was a member of the Book of the Month Club for most of our youth and, while she didn't buy lots of books that way -- she was a housewife and we lived on Dad's teacher's salary in those days before strong teachers' unions -- the books we had at home covered a rather eclectic subject matter. I started to devour them when I was in junior high.

One was Lowell Thomas' book on the Dalai Lama, and I remember being fascinated by this story of a strange land (Tibet), how their leader was discovered and raised, and his dramatic escape over the Himalayas to India. But it would be years later before I made the Tibbetts-Tibet connection I like best.

Tenzin Gyatso fled Lhasa on March 17, 1959, arriving in India 15 days later.

And early on the evening on March 17, 1959, at the Kaiser Hospital on Sunset and Vermont in east Hollywood, California, I was born.

Tibbetts. Tibet. 51 years ago today.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The STS at Worship

I just learned about this video snip from the opening Eucharist at last Fall's General Retreat of the Society of the Holy Trinity that's been on YouTube. The setting is the Chapel at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary for the Feast of St. Michael and All Saints 2009 as we are singing the grand hymn, "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones".

In case you're wondering, you can see me in my alb (I'm the Thurifer) standing near the Processional Cross which is to the the right-side (from the viewer's perspective) of the Altar.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Reflections on the Panel Discussion at LSTC

"This'll be interesting." That's how I concluded my post with the announcement of the panel discussion I was part of today at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, "ELCA Congregations and the Sexuality Statement." The private discussion among many of my friends was considerably less irenic.

So I really need to begin this reflection by noting the gracious hospitality I received from those of the LSTC community -- students, faculty, and staff -- that I encountered today. And also the many expressions of thankfulness for my participation in the panel, both in taking the time to drive up to Chicago from Peoria (it was 175 miles each way from Zion to LSTC) and for presenting my perspective as I did.

The flier described the discussion, "Hear experienced Church Leaders give real-life examples of congregational responses to the ELCA Sexuality statement." I'd say that, at best, we barely scratched the surface of that description -- though my experience has been that is often the case of panel discussions. The format probably didn't help: the first half-hour was spent eating lunch, though it helped the panelists to get to know each other a bit and discover some other connections we had.

Then came the formal introductions of the topic and the panelists, followed by our "5 minute" responses to the question and Prof. Perry's response to our comments. I put "5 minutes" in quotes because, while one seminarian was the official timekeeper, each of us had really only gotten started at that point.

Bishop Freiheit started, and he was followed by the Pastor Miller. I was third and began my comments much as they did -- describing how the general topic of the ELCA's journeys on human sexuality had affected our own ministries. As I often do, I began with a little farewell dinner put on by a friend as I was leaving for PLTS in June of 1988. This is to elicit recollections of the "PLTS Three," who had been approved for ordination in the closing days of the LCA and ALC, then with the beginning of the ELCA in January 1988 announced that they were gay men who either were, or desired to be, in a same-sex relationship. The reaction in much of the "new church" was fierce.

And my dinner companions, one of whom had been confirmed with one of the Three, asked me how this controversy would affect me. "Not at all," I replied. Yet nearly 22 years later, it's been THE one constant topic either at the forefront, or just under the surface, in everything the ELCA has done.

Well, it wasn't a topic in my interviews before being called to Zion. That was something that would be very different for those about to be available for a first call: they would be asked what the thought, believed, and intended to teach about sexuality -- and other theological matters. And they may be asked in a context of suspicion. I didn't have to deal with that in 1992, as much I yearned that theology might be a part of the interview process. I didn't have to deal with human sexuality, until I was finally able to organize my first adult study class as their pastor -- on the controversial First Draft of a proposed sexuality statement (released in Fall 1993).

Now I'm not sure what the organizers, panelists, or audience was expecting from me, but the members of the LSTC Diversity Committee knew -- partly because one of its members had interned in Central/Southern Illinois, heard me speak at the Synod Assembly, and knew of my association with Lutheran CORE -- that I have a Traditionalist perspective, as did the panelists and a couple of seminarians who've seen some of my writing via ALPB's Forum Letter or its online forum.

Whatever the rest of community was expecting, they definitely noticed when I then stated not only my opposition to the CWA's actions, but that I was in "profound" disagreement with my own Bishop -- sitting maybe 4 feet to my right -- and that we had been living in that disagreement for several years.

At that point I tried to describe some of the conflicts and divisions that ELCA congregations and pastor were facing since last summer -- noting that those opposed to the CWA's actions often were responding having participated in the ELCA's sexuality studies, even to the point of being sick of the topic, and were responding not out of ignorance and fear, but theological conviction -- and pointing to the negative effects when a congregation and pastor were of different minds on either the new statement, or (even when in agreement there) on remaining associated with the ELCA.

You'd guess rightly that I'd used up my 5 minutes by then. By the time Pastor Christensen and Prof. Perry concluded, it was past 12:30. Time for audience questions.

Each person had been given a 3x5 card to submit (anonymously) a question, and the cards had been placed in a basket. Another student member of the Diversity Committee had then grouped the questions into similar subjects.

The first set of questions were along the lines of: Is sexuality really the big issue we should be talking about? Isn't this distracting us from real ministry? Or is the controversy over gays in the ministry only one source of tension in the church, with hemeneutical questions about the Bible actually being more important? And how can we deal with people who say "I have no real problem with gay people," but follow that with homophobic actions (or inactions).

My response was that today's controversy was a reflection of sexualization of so much of our culture, not just church discussion, and our unwillingness as the church to deal with issues of marriage and family theologically. And, perhaps more significant, we don't get to choose what the latest big question is going to be. Regardless of what we want to talk about, right now sexuality is a big issue for both church and culture.

It was about 10 'til 1 by the time the panel finished that set of questions, and time for students to get on to class. But while we didn't get to any of the other questions, the Diversity Committee asked for the panelists' e-mail addresses in the hope that perhaps we could continue the discussion in some sort of on-line forum. I hope they can do that.

And a few folks were able to stick around and engage in some one-on-one conversation with a panelist -- so it was getting close to 3 o'clock by the time I started walking to my car.

One final reflection. In her 5 minute opening, Michelle Miller was discussing the several different ministries she'd served since being ordained, raising up to the seminarians that some of them were to places that, had it been just up to her, she never would have selected -- but each of them had turned out to be a call or an interim that had been, for her, a place of important and good ministry. The "lesson" that she was illustrating is an important one to raise: God may call us to go where we least expect or desire to go. Be open to that.

But two of her examples saddened me -- though I hasten to add that my disappointment was not so much in her, as it was yet another confirmation of the state of too much of the ELCA's leadership over many years. The first was an interim pastorate that the then-Bishop of the Metro Chicago Synod wanted her to serve, a parish in a town well-known nationally for being a home to conservative evangelicalism -- where he specifically wanted her, a (then-closeted) lesbian in a committed relationship, to lead the congregation through its discernment in becoming a "Reconciling in Christ" congregation. The second was her current call, where the parish told the Bishop that they were interested only in calling a gay or lesbian pastor. A request he granted by offering them several choices to consider. Long before Vision and Expectations was to be amended.

And yet to listen to him in person or at the recent ELCA Town Hall forums, Presiding Bishop Hanson seems genuinely baffled that traditionalists don't seem to trust the word of our church's leaders.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Well, I Opened My Big Mouth...

I'm told this has been posted at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago:


ELCA Congregations and the Sexuality Statement

Thursday, March 11, 2010
11:30AM – 12:50PM
Room 350 – LUNCH Provided!

HEAR experienced Church Leaders give real-life examples of congregational responses to the ELCA Sexuality statement

DISCOVER what first call students need to know about Congregations in the ELCA

* Panelists:
  • Rev. Warren Freiheit – Bishop, Central/Southern Illinois Synod
  • Rev. Steven Tibbetts – Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Peoria, IL
  • Rev. Michelle Miller - Pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Chicago
  • Rev. Erik Christensen co-chair of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries ( and pastor at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Chicago
* Responder:
  • Dr. Richard Perry - LSTC – Ethicist

Sponsored by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and the Multicultural center of LSTC

Each of the panelists has been given 5 minutes to respond to this focus question: In light of your experience, what do first call LSTC students need to know about congregations in the ELCA? Then comes questions to us all from the LSTC community. This'll be interesting.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Lutheran CORE Illinois to Form March 19-20

You are invited to register for the convocation of Illinois Lutheran congregations, pastors, and laity to formally constitute Lutheran CORE Illinois on March 19-20, 2010, at American Lutheran Church, Rantoul, Illinois. Please also forward this message to others in Illinois who wish to stand as a part of Lutheran CORE for the renewal of the Lutheran church in North America.

To register please send your name, address, e-mail, and the congregation you attend (or represent) to

There is no registration fee. A free-will offering for Lutheran CORE Illinois will be received.

The Convocation will begin at 7 pm on Friday, March 19, and conclude that evening at 9 pm. It will reconvene Saturday morning at 8 am and be concluded by Noon.

We have allowed this much time to enable discussion on the effects in Illinois of the reconfiguration of North American Lutheranism being charted by Lutheran CORE. And to enable Lutherans from across the state -- within the ELCA and its 3 Illinois synods and outside (or intending to be outside) of the ELCA -- to begin to network with each other.

We recognize some attendees may be traveling long distances and may not be able to attend the entire convocation. Approving the initial constitution (which will be available soon on the CORE Illinois web site) and electing the CORE Illinois Steering Committee will happen Saturday morning.

Rantoul is located about a dozen miles north of the junction of I-57 and I-74 outside of Champaign-Urbana, with American Lutheran being about 2 miles from the junction of I-57 and US-136. Directions can be found at the church's web site. CORE Illinois is not arranging for lodging or meals, but they are available in Rantoul and the Champaign-Urbana vicinity.

To be sure of receiving information about Lutheran CORE Illinois, please send an e-mail with your name and congregation to, which will subscribe you to the Lutheran CORE Illinois Announcements group. One can also find CORE Illinois announcements at, and can join the group from there with a yahoo! ID. We aim to not bombard you with e-mails if you join that group.

Lutheran CORE Illinois also has established a "discussion" list that you can join by sending your name and congregation to or its associated site at

Again, please forward this message to Illinois Lutherans who are supportive of Lutheran CORE's vision for the future of North American Lutheranism.

Peace and all good, Pastor Steven Tibbetts

The Rev. Steven P. Tibbetts, STS
Pastor, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Peoria, Ill.
Chair, Lutheran CORE Illinois Steering Committee