Rev. W. James Nelson earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California and a Master of Divinity degree from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California.  He is also a graduate of the Chaplain’s Basic and Advance courses and the United States Army Command and General Staff College.  Rev. Nelson completed his Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at the University of California Medical Center and Hospital in San Francisco, California and the United States Army.

A retired United States Army Chaplain, Rev. Nelson served tours of duty at various locations throughout the world.  Rev. Nelson has also served as a parish pastor in Chicago, Illinois; Oakland, California; Cincinnati, Ohio; Tuskegee, Alabama and Savannah, Georgia.  In addition, he was a Veterans Administration Hospital Chaplain for five years.

Pastor Nelson has been very active in the Savannah community by serving as the President of the Ministerial Alliance, board member of Step-Up Savannah, co-chair of the Interracial Interfaith Community, member of the Emancipation Association of Savannah and vicinity and the Chairperson for the Ready! Set, Go Back to School campaign; and member of the Racism Team in the Southeastern District of the United States in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Pastor Nelson in his spare time enjoys jogging and walking, playing golf, watching football, reading and listening to jazz and the blues.

Finally, he is a devoted husband to his wife, Dr Karen (Kay), father, grandfather and great grandfather, but most of all he is a child of God and a follower of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


Good Shepherd Lutheran Church was formed in 1937 as the 12th Lutheran congregation in Chatham and Effingham counties, and the first church built in Garden City. The founding pastor was the Rev. John Koch, Jr. The groundbreaking for the church building was held on May 23, 1937.  A Sunday School and Parish Building was completed in 1949.

What do Lutherans Believe?

Lutherans still hold to the basic principles of theology and practice espoused by Martin Luther:, Grace Alone. Faith alone. Scripture Alone.


  • We are saved by the grace of God, not by anything we do. But we respond to God’s unfailing love with gratitude toward God and in service to our neighbors.

  • God comes to meet us in the person of Jesus Christ. Faith is given by God so that we might believe that Christ gave his life to erase our sins. That faith allows us to trust in that promise of God, and to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

  • The Holy Scripture is God-given, and is the only true standard by which belief, teaching and doctrine can be judged; and should be applied with prayer and deep humility.

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