Lutheran Church Elects First Transgender Bishop: 'A Place in History That Means a Lot'

Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer previously served as the church's first openly transgender pastor

The Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer
Photo: Courtesy Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer

Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer is making history within the Evangelical Lutheran Church as the very first transgender bishop.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) announced this week in a press release that Rohrer, who uses they/them pronouns, was elected to serve a six-year term as bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod, further cementing their mark on the church after previously being its first openly transgender pastor.

"It's humbling. It's inspiring," Rohrer told CNN. "And I think I'm very aware that this call is bigger than me — that it's about serving God, and it's about … a place in history that means a lot to a lot of people."

Rohrer has served as pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in San Francisco since 2014 — and was ordained during a time when the ELCA did not allow LGBTQ pastors to serve openly, according to their website.

When the policy changed in 2009, Rohrer, who lives in San Francisco with their wife and two children, was among the first of seven pastors received into the ELCA.

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"Most people's feelings about gay and lesbian and trans people aren't rational, and maybe as I've matured as a pastor, I've figured out that it's feelings. People have a feeling or a fear that is compelling them to want to say no to an entire group of people," Rohrer told Cosmopolitan in 2018. "The way to respond to that is by being our best self and by being louder than other people's fear."

Rohrer told the outlet they grew up in South Dakota, where the difficulties they faced in coming out as transgender inspired them to turn to religion.

"You can imagine it's not the most fun place to figure out you're trans," they said. "The amount of religious abuse that people spoke near me and around me was enough to make me study religion."

The Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer
Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer. Courtesy Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer

Rohrer, who has also worked with San Francisco's LGBTQ homeless community as executive director of Welcome for the past 12 years, will be installed on Sept. 11 at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Walnut Creek, California, according to the ELCA.

The ELCA, which has 3.3 million members, is the only Christian denomination (along with the Episcopal Church) to allow transgender people to serve as clergy, according to CNN.

"I think the most important thing I can say as a queer pastor is I'm sorry. Using faith to tear other people down is not good news," Rohrer told Cosmopolitan. "We need to all be as loud and angry as the people who want to declare that there are types of people that god can't love. People are literally dying because of it."

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