Remembering Bishop Nelson Trout
Chapel Dedication Saturday, February 19, 2022 at 1:00 P.M.
September 20 is the 25th anniversary of the passing of the Rev. Dr. Nelson Trout, the first African-American bishop of the American Lutheran Church and the Evangelical Church of America, and the day set aside for his Commemoration in the ELCA Calendar of Saints.
The dedication of the Rev. Dr. Nelson W. Trout Chapel at the Office of the Bishop in Glendale, postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will take place on Saturday, February 19, 2022 at 1:00 p.m, when we will be honored to have the Trout Family in attendance. Additionally, an endowment in honor of Dr. Trout has been established, with a goal of $25,000 by December 2022.
"I am inspired by Bishop Trout's legacy," stated SWCA Synod Bishop Brenda Bos, "and realize he paved the way - not only for me, but also some of my current mentors and influencers: Bishop Yehiel Curry of the Metropolitan Chicago synod, Bishop Patricia Davenport of the Southeastern Pennsylvania synod, and the Rev. Abraham Allende, former Bishop of the Northeastern Ohio synod. It is a true honor for the Southwest California Synod to be home for much of Bishop Trout's historic ministry."
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
Born in Columbus, Ohio in 1921, Nelson Trout attended and would graduate from Capital University and Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus. He received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Wartburg College in Iowa, and pastored congregations in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and Montgomery, Alabama, along with Community Lutheran in Los Angeles.

While serving at Trinity Lutheran Church, Montgomery, a small congregation with an attached private school funded as a mission by the World Lutheran Council, Dr. Trout befriended the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He served on the staff of the American Lutheran Church (ALC) in 1960, which would be merged into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1987. From 1960 to 1967, Dr. Trout was the ALC’s Associate Youth Director, a post he would leave to become Director of Urban Evangelism (1968 – 1970).

Trout also served as Executive Director of Lutheran Social Services in Dayton, Ohio, then as professor and Director of Minority Ministry Studies at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, his alma mater. In June 1983 the American Lutheran Church – South Pacific District elected him as their bishop at California Lutheran College (now California Lutheran University) in Thousand Oaks, California, making him the first African-American bishop in United States Lutheranism.
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

From 1983 to 1987, Bishop Trout oversaw the South Pacific District, which in 1983 had 144,000 members in 310 congregations in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Hawaii, and some Texas counties. The merger which formed the ELCA in 1987 entailed the creation of 65 synods. The Rev. Trout became the Bishop Emeritus of the new Southwest California Synod, as well as the Director for Mission Theology and Evangelism Training within the ELCA’s Division of Outreach, Chicago, Illinois.

In 1991, his alma mater, Trinity Lutheran Seminary, established the Nelson W. Trout Lectureship in Preaching, an annual event that “lifts the preaching skills” of many.

Nelson Trout died in Inglewood, California at the age of 75, survived by his wife, Jennie (who passed away on February 22, 2013) and three adult children.
Biographical information: Kenneth Randolph Taylor
Lutheran Quarterly article excerpted in Living Lutheran
Southwest California Synod of the ELCA | (818) 507-9591 | |