Published Thursday, October 11, 2012
By W. WINSTON SKINNER
Dr. Gerald Troutman wrote prayers – composed specifically for special occasions – several times for publication in The Newnan Times-Herald. This one was published on Sept. 12, 2001, as Cowetans joined with people across the country and around the world in seeking to make sense and find peace following the unthinkable attack of 9/11.
God bless America!
We love our country, O God.
We are distressed over the horrific events which have occurred in our beloved land.
We look for solace in the midst of tragedy. We turn to You.
We are reminded, once more, of the fragility of life in this world.
Help us to remember in this, our time of need, You are “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
Help us to receive the strength and hope that comes only through Your love and care.
God Bless America!
In Your Name we pray.
Troutman rose to the rank of bishop in his Lutheran faith before retiring in 1996 and moving back to his wife’s hometown. In Newnan, he became active in a wide range of community projects while continuing to raise funds for Lutheran ministerial students and – on occasion – serving as pastor to the community at large.
Troutman, 78, died Oct. 6 at Piedmont Newnan Hospital after several months of declining health. His memorial service will be Saturday at 2 p.m. at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, 731 Peachtree St, NE, Atlanta.
His family will receive friends at the church from 12:30-2 p.m.
Troutman was the last bishop of the Southeastern Synod of the Lutheran Church in America. In 1988, the LCA merged with two other groups to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Troutman’s death came during the time of a meeting of ELCA bishops in Chicago. It was the task of Julian Gordy, the Newnan native who is now bishop for the ELCA’s Southeastern Synod, to tell his fellow bishops of Troutman’s passing.
Few – if any – of those at the Chicago meeting had not been touched by Troutman’s ministry.
“Essentially, he did the same job I’m doing,” Gordy said. “He was well-known across the church.”
Troutman was born Dec. 16, 1933, in Andrews, N.C. His father, Edwin Nosker Troutman, was also a Lutheran pastor.
In a 2009 interview, Troutman recalled he grew up “in the mountains” in Boone, N.C. A high school athlete, Troutman got a football scholarship that enabled him to matriculate at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, N.C., where he graduated in 1956.
Troutman had worked at a local funeral home and considered becoming a funeral director. He also thought about becoming a football coach but was told by friends he was “not mean enough” to spend his life coaching football.
After graduating from Lenoir-Rhyne, Troutman took an internship at a church in Knoxville, Tenn. During that time, he became convinced that a career as a pastor was the right direction for him.
“It changed my life,” Troutman said of his internship year.
While in Knoxville, he also met the woman he would marry, Coweta County native Marihope Shirey. “She was there at the University of Tennessee, working on her master’s,” Troutman recalled.
Troutman earned a master of divinity degree from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, S.C.; clinical pastoral education certification at Georgia Baptist Medical Center in Atlanta; and a doctor of ministry degree from Candler School of Theology at Emory University.
He held an honorary doctor of divinity degree from Newberry College, and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary presented Troutman with the Dr. J. Luther Mauney Leadership Award. He was particularly pleased when Lenoir-Rhyne University presented him with the 2009 Alumnus of the Year Award.
Troutman was presented with the Clarence L. Pugh Distinguished Alumnus Award in ceremonies on the Lenoir-Rhyne campus. Margaret Allen, assistant director of marketing and communications at Lenoir-Rhye, said the award is presented annually to the alumnus or alumna who has demonstrated great prominence in his or her career field while adhering to the principles of education and Christian character upon which Lenoir-Rhyne was founded.
The award is the highest given by the LRU Alumni Association. “I was deeply honored,” Troutman said.
Troutman served as pastor of congregations in Greeneville, Tenn., and Atlanta. Before becoming bishop, he also served as secretary and president of the LCA’s Southeastern Synod of the Lutheran Church in America.
Troutman served on the staff of the Division for Ministry and Synodical Relations of the ELCA and as director of development for Lutheran Ministries of Georgia.
He was an interim/transition pastor in several congregations – including Resurrection Lutheran Church on Highway 34 in Coweta County, Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Atlanta, St. Timothy Lutheran in Forest Park, and Advent Lutheran in LaGrange.
In 2009, Troutman was honored by the ELCA’s Southeastern Synod when he was named Bishop Emeritus.
Troutman was the 50th anniversary preacher on the “Protestant Hour” – which has since been renamed “Day One.” He served as a national judge for the American Mother of the Year Contest.
Locally, Troutman was a member of the Newnan Rotary Club and the Coweta Press Club, for whom he presented scholarships. He was grand marshal one year for the July 4 parade in Newnan.
He was a member of the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce, chairing the Chamber’s convention center task force. Troutman also served on the boards of the Coweta Community Foundation and the Keith Brooking Children’s Foundation.
Earlier this year, he was still attending meetings of Resource Coweta, a coalition of helping organizations and ministries. Troutman was a graduate of Leadership Coweta and volunteered at Newnan Health and Fitness Club.
He also had served as a chaplain for police and fire departments and held leadership in school, youth sports and civic organizations.
Gordy, who will be one of the clergy taking part in Saturday’s memorial service, had known Troutman since about 1979.
“He ordained me. I was going through the process to become a Lutheran pastor,” he recalled.
“After retirement, he worked for something called the Fund for Leaders,” Gordy said. The Fund for Leaders sought to raise money to cover educational expenses for aspiring Lutheran pastors.
Troutman retired from his work with the Fund for Leaders in 2009.
“Too many of our students come out of seminary with more debt than they can handle,” Troutman said in an interview that year, adding that there was a great need for more Lutheran pastors.
Last year, Troutman and Gordy were involved in planning for a joint service with United Methodists at First United Methodist Church of Newnan. The service followed a 2008 agreement between the ELCA and the United Methodist Church to be in full communion.
“Newnan is leading the way,” Troutman said at a meeting prior to the service.
Dr. Marihope Shirey Troutman and the longtime Lutheran leader had been married 52 years at the time of his death.
She is a retired educator who has served on the Coweta County Board of Education and is active in the community.
The Troutmans have three children and six grandchildren.
McKoon Funeral Home in Newnan is in charge of the arrangements. In lieu of flowers, Troutman’s family has asked that memorial contributions be sent to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Fund for Leaders, P.O. Box 71764, Chicago, IL 60694-1764 or at www.elca.org .
“There probably was not a more beloved person in the church than Jerry was,” Gordy reflected. “He had this real gentleness. I don’t guess there was anybody who loved the church more – or the people in it. With Jerry, it was always about the people.”