The Rev. Dr. Paul Nagano dies; was instrumental in establishing Asian-American representation within denomination  

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 5/1/19)—The Rev. Dr. Paul Makoto Nagano, 98, an influential pastor and theologian who was instrumental in establishing Asian-American representation within the American Baptist family, died on April 13, surrounded by loved ones.

He and his wife, Florence Emiko Wake, were married for 75 years.

Born on June 17, 1920, in Los Angeles, he was a son of George Tatsuo and Seki Uchiki Nagano.

In 1975, he was appointed first Asian Ministries director at American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS), then known as National Ministries. A key founder of the Asian American Baptist Caucus—now known as the Alliance of Asian American Baptist ChurchesNagano had worked closely with the late Dr. Jitsu Morikawa, the late Dr. James Chuck and the late William Shinto to develop the Asian caucus identity.

Ordained in 1943, Nagano served as pastor of Makiki Christian Church, Honolulu; Japanese Baptist Church, Seattle; and First Baptist Church, Oakland, Calif. He was a chaplain at Atherton Baptist Homes retirement community, Alhambra, Calif.

He founded the Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society, Los Angeles, and Council for Asian Pacific Theology, Berkeley, Calif. He taught at Northwest Theological Union, Seattle, and Graduate Theological Union, Pacific School of Religion and American Baptist Seminary of the West, all in Berkeley.

During World War II, he was relocated with his family to a Japanese-American internment camp in Poston, Ariz. Serving as one of the first English speaking Japanese-American pastors, he and others rotated in conducting worship services at various internment camps. In addition, he was a pastor at Military Intelligence Service Language School at Camp Savage and Fort Snelling, both Minn. Following World War II, he re-established the first Japanese-American church in California—Japanese Baptist Church, now known as Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles.

“Asian Ministries would not have its place in ABHMS today if not for Dr. Paul Nagano, his advocacy and his emphasis on ethnicity and identity,” says the Rev. Florence Li, ABHMS national coordinator of Asian Ministries. “His ministry and theology shaped many people’s lives. Because of his internment experience, he spoke out for justice, love and community.”

He earned a Ph.D. at Claremont (Calif.) School of Theology as well as a bachelor’s degree and honorary doctorate from Chapman University, Orange, Calif.

Survivors: Wife; sons, Jim and Steve (Patty Ito) Nagano; daughter, Janet (Mitch Werth) Nagano; granddaughter, Kelsey Iino; and brother, Jack Nagano.

Service: A celebration of his life will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 11, at Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles, 1225 S. San Gabriel Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770. The family requests no flowers. Casual/aloha attire is suggested.

American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists to promote Christian faith, cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and bring healing and transformation to communities across the United States and Puerto Rico.

 American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.