Black History Month – Week 3

Lutherans you should know in black history

WEEK 3: Civil Rights Era - Rev. Dr. Nelson Trout

Nelson Trout Black History Month portrait
Portrait of Rev. Dr. Nelson Trout

While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”

SCRIPTURE - Matthew 17:5

The Reverend, Doctor Nelson Trout graduated from Capital University and Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio.  He later received his Doctor of Divinity degree from Wartburg College.  Dr. Trout pastored congregations in Wisconsin, Alabama and California.

While serving in Montgomery, Alabama Dr. Trout served Trinity Lutheran Church, which had a private school attached to it that was funded by the World Lutheran Council.  Quality education was extremely important to him.  After serving various positions on the staff of the American Lutheran Church (ALC) including Associate Youth Director, Director of  Urban Evangelism and Executive Director of Lutheran Social Services in Dayton, Ohio, Dr. Trout returned to Trinity Lutheran Seminary as the professor and Director of Minority Ministry Studies.

In 1983, Dr. Trout was elected bishop of the ALC’s, South Pacific District making him the first African-American bishop in United States Lutheranism.  In 1987, after the three-way merger formed the ELCA Dr. Trout became the Bishop Emeritus of the new Southwest California Synod, as well as the Director for Mission Theology and Evangelism Training at the ELCA church-wide office in Chicago.

In 1991 Trinity Lutheran Seminary established the Nelson W. Trout Lectureship in Preaching, an annual event that is designed to “lift the preaching skills.”  And in February of 2022, the 25th anniversary of his passing the Rev. Dr. Nelson W. Trout Chapel at the office of the Bishop was dedicated in Glendale, California at the Southwest California Synod office.

Notable Quotes

As I traveled about the country it appeared to me that the judgment of history is being executed in the streets of our cities. America is learning that you cannot violate God or neighbor with impunity. There is a biblical reference which says that “if one sows to the wind, [one] will reap the whirlwind.” There is another which says, “The fathers have eaten grapes and have put their children’s teeth on edge.” The formidableness of such an inexorable justice is the nature of the challenge facing America, and I am fearful that we are not willing or ready to accept its decree.

~ The Rev. Dr. Nelson Trout, Lutheran Quarterly, May 1968

When I suggest that the solution to our ever increasing racial problem be found in our ability to generate goodwill, I would not want such a suggestion to be discarded as the council of weakness. Granted, we do not normally think of such a quality of human experience as being in the same league with our military power, or with our scientific resources; yet, it is not to be discarded as utter sentimentality or some impotent form of effeminacy. I submit to you that human goodwill is the greatest power available to humanity.

~ The Rev. Dr. Nelson Trout, Lutheran Quarterly, May 1968


A special thank-you to the Florida-Bahamas Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America for putting together this resource. 


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