Proud of Our ELCA Journey

The Pacifica Synod Assembly was held in Irvine, CA two weeks ago.  Before we dive into the specifics of what all happened over those three days, I want to take a cue from Bob Michelet.  When he shared about the assembly during worship on the Sunday after the assembly, he wisely reminded us that part of being an “All Are Welcome” church means doing our best to not use insider language and jargon.  Or at the very least, making sure to explain it when we do.  So, to back up for a moment, I want to talk about the church on a larger scale than just what happens at Bethlehem.

We are part of a larger national church called the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America).  It was founded in 1988, and it is organized into geographical regions called synods – there are 65 of them in all.  The size of a synod is determined by the density of Lutheran churches in that area.  For example, Minneapolis, MN is its own synod, as is the city of St. Paul, MN because there are just that many Lutherans up there in the frozen north.  Conversely, the Rocky Mountain Synod covers all of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, most of Wyoming, and part of Texas.  We are a part of the Pacifica Synod which covers the very bottom of California (south of LA), Hawaii, and soon will include Guam, as well as all other US territories in the Pacific.  Each synod has a bishop, and there is one presiding bishop for the whole ELCA.  Once a year, every synod gathers to conduct whatever business needs to be done as well as share the amazing work that is going on in different congregations, as well as in the larger church.  

This year’s assembly was special for a number of reasons.  For starters, it was the first time in three years that we have been able to gather together in-person.  The 2020 Assembly was canceled entirely, and the 2021 A-Zoom-bly happened on Zoom (hence the clever name).  It was also important because we had the privilege and responsibility of electing a new bishop.  Bishop Andy Taylor decided not to seek a second term, which left the field wide open.  It was a wonderful, spirit-led, and discernment-filled process that ultimately resulted in Dave Nagler being elected.  Dave served as intern and then associate pastor at Bethlehem back in the 90s.  He spoke with clarity of purpose, prophetic wisdom, and graceful humility, and I think that his leadership is exactly what this synod needs as we navigate what the church is going to look like as we come out of this pandemic, and given everything that’s going on in the world. 

I am incredibly proud to be a part of the ELCA.  I love the tradition that it grounds us in, the community that we get to be a part of because of it, and the collective discerning of God’s will for us as the people of God.  For more information about what happened at this year’s assembly please visit the 2022 Pacifica Synod Assembly Final Review Publication:


Pastor Sam