As he prepares to take office as bishop of the Pacifica Synod on Aug. 1, David C. Nagler of San Diego said the synod has a great opportunity and role to play in addressing the divisions in society today.
“Into that space a church that boldly proclaims the unconditional love of God and is willing to partner with anyone who seeks the common good is truly good news,” he said. “Our grace-centered theology allows us to work with a wonderful variety of other religious and nonreligious groups on issues like climate change, racial justice and economic equity. To do that, we need to create communication strategies that speak beyond the confines of the congregations in our synod. We need to reengage the public square. We can find creative ways to share our stories and listen to the stories of other communities.”
The notions of engagement, listening and storytelling are recurring themes in Nagler’s vision for how he aims to lead a “marvelously diverse synod.”
“Our synod is a border synod in one of the most diverse regions of our church,” he said. “We have some of the wealthiest communities and the poorest communities in the nation.”
To serve these diverse communities most effectively, Nagler said the synod’s goals include decentralizing its staff and office structure, prioritizing two-way evangelism that invites people to help create a new church, committing to long-term anti-racism work and investing in innovation.
“We can find creative ways to share our stories and listen to the stories of other communities.”
Nagler was elected to the six-year term as bishop on May 20, and his installation is scheduled for Oct. 16. He has served as pastor of Christ Lutheran Church–Pacific Beach in San Diego since 2015. Prior to that, he served other congregations in California and in Oregon and was a missionary with the Malagasy Lutheran Church in Madagascar.
In his nomination background material provided prior to the Pacifica Synod Assembly, Nagler said he sees the role of a pastor and bishop as one who inspires community and practices servant leadership. He credits one of his lifelong hobbies—surfing—as a practice that helps him stay rooted to his role in the community.
“My greatest space for true re-creation is in the ocean,” Nagler said. “I try to paddle out five days a week. When I’m in the water, I’m part of an ecosystem that is vast. I can meditate on the power and beauty of creation. While I surf, I practice a ‘lovingkindness’ meditation, which gets me beyond my ego self and reconnects me to my community.”