UPDATE 2/23/24: Part of our ongoing process of joining the LCMC requires us to draft a new constitution and we want you to be a part of that conversation. Please join us as we begin this conversation at the first of three meetings on March 3rd at 10:30 in Room 5. A follow-up meeting will be held on Sunday, March 10th at 10:30 also in Room 5, and Thursday March 14th at 6:30pm via Zoom. If you have questions about this process, or comments you would like to submit to council prior to these meetings, please email here, questions@goodshepherd-naperville.org.

Throughout the life of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, we have always listened to the direction of the Holy Spirit. Our church council has once again been in a period of deep and intentional prayer and discernment regarding our future relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA.) We have always been a unique church, and over time, it has become increasingly evident to our church council that the ELCA’s hierarchical top-down leadership structure limits and adversely impacts the life and ministry of Good Shepherd. 

The statements and questions below are meant to provide more context and clarity on this ongoing conversation and these questions have been generated by our congregation. As this conversation continues, this document may be updated to better reflect the needs of our congregation. 

Please feel free to reach out to council@goodshepherd-naperville.org with any additional questions. 

UPDATE 1/26/24: This week, our application to the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) was accepted, marking a new chapter in our church’s story. This affiliation with LCMC allows us to hold dual membership until our second vote to disaffiliate from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in May.

Our first Conversation with Council of 2024 will be on Sunday, February 4th at 10am in Room 5. Our Council is intentionally setting aside this time for anyone to bring questions about the future of our church and to help clarify any confusion as we move forward as a congregation. 

UPDATE 1/15/24: Thank you to so many who braved the cold weather on Sunday and joined us in person for this important vote. I am deeply moved and grateful for each of you who joined us for the Special Congregational Meeting on January 14, 2024, whether in person or online. Your commitment has made this gathering one of unprecedented participation in our church’s history, truly a testament to our vibrant community.

After verification of all the ballots, the final results are as follows:

  • Yes:  372 (86.7%)
  • No:   57 (13.3%)
  • Total Valid Votes: 429 (100%)

While 487 votes were cast in total, it’s important to note that 58 of these were unable to meet our established voting criteria. We are sharing this detail with the Bishop’s office, as our constitution guides us. In our enthusiasm to share preliminary results at the end of the meeting, I incorrectly reported that the resolution had passed by over 95%. Please accept our apologies for that early, incorrect miscommunication.  

Our collective decision, requiring a two-thirds majority as per our Constitution, was not only met but significantly surpassed. With 86.7% in favor, our congregation has faithfully chosen to embrace a new path. This decision authorizes the Council to initiate the transition from our current affiliation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to a new journey with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC). This marks a pivotal moment in our spiritual journey as a community, and the Council will promptly begin the process of applying for membership in the LCMC, as outlined in the resolution.

As we await further guidance from the Bishop’s office, I want to assure you that communication will remain open and transparent. Our journey is one we take together, and continuing dialogue is essential as we navigate these changes.

The road ahead is filled with both challenges and blessings, and I am confident that, united in faith and love, we will continue to grow and thrive in our ministry at Good Shepherd.

UPDATE: The Good Shepherd Church Council will hold a special Congregational Meeting this Sunday, January 14th, from 12:30pm-2:30pm. The agenda will include a vote regarding the resolution to shift Good Shepherd Lutheran Church’s affiliation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC). Lunch will be provided in the cafe immediately following worship services and then we will start promptly at 12:30pm. To meet constitutional requirements, the meeting will also be accessible online through this LINK.

Below, please find supporting documentation for Sunday’s Congregational Meeting:

  • Why is council proposing a shift from the ELCA to the LCMC?
    • Two main challenges have developed regarding our relationship with the ELCA–governance and pastoral supply over our thirty five year history with the ELCA. Thirty years ago, Good Shepherd had a very collaborative and supportive partnership with the Synod and Bishop. The primary focus was finding a solution that supported the flourishing of Good Shepherd. Over time, we have felt the Synod’s focus shift toward prioritizing following rules, procedures, and processes and away from collaboration in which the unique needs and concerns of individual congregations were prioritized. Governance has become more of a hindrance. 
      • One example of the prioritization of governance over the well-being of individual congregations was evident when updating our Church Constitution in 2021.The ELCA requires congregations to adopt their model constitution. Most of the ELCA model constitution is mandatory, including provisions about theology, governance of the church, and property. For example, one required section of the Constitution gives the ELCA rights to our property under certain circumstances. In 2021, we attempted to change this provision regarding property ownership so that the property would always remain with our congregation, no matter what. The Synod denied that change, citing that the provisions were mandatory for all congregations. Having changes approved by the Synod applies to all future Constitution updates–meaning that Good Shepherd has very little control of what that means for us in the future.
        • The effects of the ELCA’s prioritization of rules, procedures, and processes over the unique needs of individual congregations have been felt more recently as they continue to impact our congregation on a weekly basis. The Synod did not grant Pastor Tara Beth permission to perform the sacraments of Baptism and Communion despite their knowledge of our circumstances–namely having multiple concurrent worship services, a backlog of baptisms, and no pastoral staff–at the time of her hire. 
  • What about Pastoral Supply?
    • At the intersection of governance and pastoral supply lies the pastoral call process. The ELCA’s call process is burdensome, requiring churches to submit paperwork, called a Ministry Site Profile (MSP), to their Synod. The Bishop must approve the MSP and allow it to be posted. The Synod then “screens” candidates on our behalf before passing pastoral profiles along to the call team. Council believes that the full scope of the call process should lay in the hands of those who know Good Shepherd best–our congregation.
    • The second key reason for the council’s proposal is pastoral supply. The ELCA has been unable to support our congregation with a pastor who fits our needs. At the time of writing, the ELCA has 593 pastoral vacancies, which is one contributing factor in supplying pastors. More important, both the Senior and Associate Pastor Call teams interviewed many ELCA rostered pastors, but had difficulty finding one who met their criteria (which came directly from the congregational survey that council conducted in 2022.) The Call Teams were tasked with finding pastors who would be the best fit for Good Shepherd and “cast their search nets” wide. Each team was unanimous in their recommendations for Pastor Tara Beth Leach and Pastor Jake Roberts to join the Good Shepherd family. 
  • How did the council decide the LCMC was the best option for our church?
    • Council commissioned an independent Study Team to research three alternatives: remain in  the ELCA, join another Lutheran denomination, or become Independent or  Non-denominational. Council felt the Spirit leading us to stay with our Lutheran roots. Per our Constitution, if Good Shepherd transfers to another Lutheran body, “title to the property shall continue to reside in this congregation,” provided that we follow the Constitutional process for leaving the ELCA.
    • Council prayerfully discerned that joining another denomination, Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) was the best option because of the autonomy we would have in governance and pastoral supply. Their website summarizes it best: “We understand that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to ministry because different communities often have different needs, backgrounds, and cultures. Rather than micromanaging what they do, we give our members the freedom to be creative in how they do ministry, working together to transform the lives of others and fulfill the Great Commission that Jesus set forth in Matthew 28.” 
  • What can the congregation expect being affiliated with the LCMC?
    • The LCMC empowers churches to self-govern. Unlike the ELCA, the LCMC “does not have a [mandatory] model constitution and does not require approval of a congregation’s constitution.” By shifting our affiliation from the ELCA to the LCMC, Good Shepherd will be able to write a constitution that prioritizes the unique needs of our congregation. Each LCMC church is responsible for making decisions to best meet the needs of their local church. One additional benefit–there will be no future questions as to ownership of our property. The LCMC’s governing document states “each congregation retains its own property and assets and LCMC makes no claim to any congregational assets or property.” 
    • Another refreshing benefit is that Good Shepherd will have full control over the pastoral call process. “[The] LCMC respects the freedom of each congregation to call pastors they discern are most appropriate for their ministry.” Good Shepherd will be allowed to call any pastor we feel is the best fit for our family. The LCMC continues: “The process for calling a pastor or a pastor receiving a call is carried out entirely between the congregation and the candidates. No third party controls or assists the process.” The LCMC does have helpful resources, including a list of pastors who are available for call, and congregations are free to access these resources at any time. 
    • The church council and study team had conversations with ten other churches who switched their affiliation from the ELCA to the LCMC to hear about their experience. Church after church underscored that the shift was refreshing and that they are thriving. One commented that they wish they had done it sooner. There was an overwhelming feeling of positivity, energy, and enthusiasm. Every church we spoke with emphasized that the autonomy and freedom they have within the LCMC empowers them to keep Jesus and the Gospel at the center of all they do–in other words, they keep the main thing the main thing.
  • What is the process for making this shift?
    • Council notified the congregation as soon as we were certain that this was the way the Spirit was leading us. On a very practical level, the Constitution requires council to give notice to “all voting members at least 10 days in advance of the date of the [special] Congregational meeting.” Council provided 45 days notice of the first meeting, which will be held on January 14, 2024. We wanted to offer a series of town halls (which are not a constitutional requirement) to provide transparency and open a dialogue ahead of the January 14, 2024 meeting and vote.
    • The Constitution also requires that council provide the bishop 30 days notice of the first meeting and vote. After each meeting, we are required to notify the bishop of the outcome within 10 days. 
    • On January 14, 2024, the congregation will vote on the proposed resolution. The vote to adopt the resolution must pass by two-thirds of the voting members present. If the vote passes, the Constitution requires us to hold a second vote at least 90 days after the aforementioned results (of the first vote) are received by the bishop. The second special meeting and vote will be held on May 5, 2024. (If either vote does not pass by a two-thirds majority of voting members present, the process stops and cannot begin again for 6 months.)
  • How would the Congregation be impacted if we were to make this shift?
    • We believe that joining the LCMC will have a long-lasting positive impact on Good Shepherd. Our constitution is protected from mandated changes, and we are free to have our governance structure be congregation-led. All future pastoral call processes will be independent. There will be no disruption to any of our current ministries. 
  • How would our Pastoral staff be impacted?
    • Pastor Tara Beth, Pastor Jake, Pastor Greg, and Pastor Pamela will immediately be able to perform the sacraments of Communion and Baptism and will “serve in the same capacity in their congregations as certified call pastors.”  We can call Pastor Tara Beth “Senior Pastor” instead of “Senior Minister.”
  • How will the conversation continue?
    • The Good Shepherd Church Council has been, and will continue to be, hosting a series of Town Halls. The dates and times are below. Please submit questions in advance to questions@goodshepherd-naperville.org and please feel free to attend multiple town halls to get any question or concern answered. Childcare will be provided in the Nursery at the 12:30 meeting time for the December 10, 17, and January 7 meetings.
      • December 10 at 10:30 am & 12:30 pm in Room 5
      • December 17 at 10:30 am & 12:30 pm in Room 5
      • December 31 at 10:30 am & 12:30 pm in Room 5
      • January 7 at 10:30 am & 12:30 pm in Room 5
  • What is a voting member? Who can vote? 
    • Council is required to use the definition of voting member, as outlined in the Constitution and mandated by the ELCA which states: “Voting Members are confirmed members. Such confirmed members, during the current or preceding calendar year, shall have communed in this congregation and shall have made a contribution of record to this congregation.”
    • If you transferred into Good Shepherd from another ELCA congregation, no additional follow-up is needed. If you are curious as to your member status, please contact AdminTeam@goodshepherd-naperville.org and our staff can provide you with more information.
    • UPDATE 12/13: We will be offering two upcoming membership classes for you to Get to Know Good Shepherd.
  • I was a member of a church at my previous residence. Do I need to transfer that before I can vote?
    • Yes! Please contact AdminTeam@goodshepherd-naperville.org with questions about the additional requirements.
  • I want to become a member, do we have the right classes ?
    • Yes! Please contact AdminTeam@goodshepherd-naperville.org with questions about the additional requirements.
  • I want to be a voting member but am not currently. What should I do?
    • Contact AdminTeam@goodshepherd-naperville.org and look for upcoming new member classes very soon.
  • Will leaving the ELCA or joining the LCMC have any financial impact on Good Shepherd? 
    • After consulting with legal counsel, Good Shepherd will not owe the ELCA money upon leaving the denomination. Good Shepherd receives no funding from the ELCA. We currently contribute 3.5% of our benevolence funds to the ELCA. 
  • Why are these town hall meetings not being live-streamed or recorded? 
    • Council decided not to livestream these Town Halls because, recently, multiple clips of services or other events have been sent to the bishop’s office, out of context, with the intention to claim that Good Shepherd’s pastors are not adhering to ELCA practices. Congregants may join council for a Town Hall meeting on Sundays in Room 5 from 10:30am-12:00pm and from 12:30pm-2:00pm. These town halls will be held every Sunday, except Christmas Eve, until the vote occurs on January 14th, 2024. 
  • Does this shift have anything to do with our stance, the ELCA’s stance, or the LCMC’s stance on human sexuality?
    • Our approach will be the same as part of the LCMC, as it has been within the ELCA. First, this change does not affect our actions or interactions on this subject. We are a church of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. If you haven’t heard it before, we “keep the main thing the main thing.”
    • Second, it’s important to know the Pastoral staff of this church are ready, willing, and desiring the opportunity to walk with any and all members of the congregation who have questions about this topic.
    • Third, at Good Shepherd, we have been inclusive in the life and ministries of our church, rejecting no one. Whether you are rich or poor, gay or straight or transgender, black or white, special needs, or anything in between. We believe the gospel is all encompassing. We reject hate speech and bullying of the LGBTQ+ community in all forms. As a church, we have not yet fully determined whether we will perform same-sex weddings. Pastor Tara Beth has asked the church council to give her two to three years before leading the church through a discernment and decision about that. Our decision to join the LCMC would not preclude us from going through the discernment process as a church body.
    • Fourth, we wanted to share with you some excerpts from a statement generated by Resurrection Lutheran Church in Monticello, MN, which is an LCMC church.
      • “Human Sexuality is not a bulls-eye issue for Resurrection Lutheran Church. We understand people will disagree on controversial topics outside the center of the gospel; there are faithful Christians (and members within our church) who disagree on many such issues. We can live together in that discord (that Holy Tension) if we respectfully leave those issues at the edges and concentrate our energy on the center. Those we love in our congregation who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (GLBT) need to be allowed to “do community” without being bombarded with messages from others who have no idea what it is like to walk in their shoes. We insist on reflecting God’s wide circle of inclusiveness for everyone, celebrating the ONE MOST IMPORTANT TRUTH – God’s grace reached down to make a way for us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8) Grace saved each of us. Grace loves each of us just as we are. We each are offered the opportunity to serve God in all our brokenness, all our beauty, and all our confused faith. We proclaim that God’s love, and His invitation of salvation through Jesus, is clearly for ALL, so WE WELCOME ALL regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race, national origin, economic status, political views and/or any other characteristic whatsoever, into our worship, and into our membership, and seek to encourage their participation in the life of this community, meeting them where they are on their faith journey with a love, grace, forgiveness and support that reflects that of Jesus Christ. Resurrection Lutheran Church will forever be on a journey to understand how to reflect the wide love of Christ and how to create a sanctuary where God can use His Word to mold, stretch and grow us to mature as disciples. Our work is not done in this area and we suspect it may never be – God’s vision is too multidimensional to get it right on this side of eternity. We will continue learning, focused on loving each other and trusting Love will find a way.”
    • Joining the LCMC doesn’t change who we are. It allows us to call to pastoral leadership those who focus on the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. And, it gives us the flexibility to govern ourselves, prioritizing our mandate and our mission – “Inviting everyone to walk in the calling of Christ to a life of eternal impact.”
  • Does the ELCA have any claims to our property in this situation?
    • Property ownership is defined in Chapter 7 of the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church Constitution. After a review with legal counsel, there are no concerns with the congregation retaining ownership of the property and shifting affiliation to the LCMC.
  • Why isn’t council proposing we become a Non-Denominational church? 
    • The Good Shepherd Church Council thinks the Lutheran theology developed by Martin Luther best matches the theology of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. If Good Shepherd were to become Non-Denominational or join another non-Lutheran church body, the Constitution says that the property “shall continue to reside in this congregation only with the consent of the synod council.” This is part of the mandated constitution from the ELCA. In our situation, after thoroughly reviewing each option presented by the study team, Council was unanimous in its decision to stay within the Lutheran faith by joining the LCMC.