Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Elects First Transgender Person as Bishop

Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Elects First Transgender Person as Bishop

The Sierra Pacific Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) has elected its first transgender person to serve as bishop in the denomination.

On Saturday, Rev. Megan Rohrer, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in San Francisco and community chaplain coordinator for the San Francisco Police Department, was officially selected as bishop.

According to Religion News Service, Rohrer is the first openly transgender person to serve as bishop in the ELCA or any other major Christian denominations in the U.S.

Rohrer was also the first transgender person to be ordained in the ELCA in 2006 and the first to serve as pastor of Grace Lutheran in 2014.

"It's an honor to be called to serve the Sierra Pacific Synod," Rohrer told Religion News Service in a statement. "During this time when some imagine trans people at their worst, Lutherans have once again declared that transgender people are beautiful children of God. Thank you to everyone who has been praying for me and my family as I accept this call."

Rohrer was elected on the fifth ballot during Saturday's episcopal election, defeating the Rev. Jeff R. Johnson, pastor of the University of California, Berkeley's Lutheran chapel. Johnson had been leading in the vote until the final ballot.

Rohrer, 41, is well known for working with the homeless and advocating for LGBTQ rights in street activism, preaching and writing. Rohrer has also appeared on the television series "Queer Eye" and in profiles Time magazine and Cosmopolitan.

"Using faith to tear other people down is not good news," Rohrer told Cosmopolitan in 2017. "We need to all be as loud and as angry as the people who want to declare that there are types of people that God can't love."

Rohrer, raised in South Dakota, has been outspoken about the struggles they had as a young LGBTQ Christian. In an interview with California public radio station KALW, Rohrer explained how a church expelled Rohrer from its youth group after coming out as a lesbian while attending a Lutheran university.

"The people who were in my religion classes with me would sing hymns when I walked by, to try to get rid of my gay demons," Rohrer recounted. And I would just sing harmony. I didn't know what to do."

After college and ahead of attending a progressive Lutheran seminary in Berkeley in 2006, Rohrer would begin to identify as transgender. In that same year, Rohrer was ordained and worked extensively with homeless people while also serving as an associate pastor at several churches in San Francisco before being called to the pastorate at Grace Lutheran Church.

The Sierra Pacific Synod of the ECLA embodies 180 congregations in northern California and northern Nevada. The Synod has more than 36,000 members and about 13,000 worshippers who attend services on Sundays. ELCA bishops are elected for six-year terms.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Elizabeth Lara

Milton QuintanillaMilton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for CrosswalkHeadlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.