Lutherans Elect Megan Rohrer 1st Openly Transgender Bishop in Mainline Christianity

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America made history on May 8 when its Sierra Pacific Synod elected Rev. Megan Rohrer as their bishop, marking the first time an openly transgender person was elevated to the role in a mainline American Christian denomination.

Rohrer (they/he), who was called while serving as pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in San Francisco, will be installed on July 1 to serve the synod that includes about 200 congregations in northern and central California and northern Nevada.

The ELCA officially opened its doors to LGBTQ+ ministry in 2009 when it voted to allow non-celibate gay ministers to serve, becoming become the nation’s largest denomination to do so. For their part, Rohrer had already been ordained extraordinarily in 2006 via the Extraordinary Candidacy Project (now Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries). The ELCA’s recognition in 2010 of Rohrer’s ordination made them the denomination’s first openly transgender pastor.

“Megan has always found themself walking alongside in solidarity with, and to provide safety for, those lifting their voices for justice,” ELM said in a statement. “Today, history was made in our church! ELM celebrates a church that now recognizes the gifts of queer leaders like Bishop-elect Rohrer and we anticipate the day when all queer ministry leaders will be called to ministry settings without hindrance or barrier and will be affirmed in their God-given calls.”

The ELCA called its first openly gay bishop in 2013 with the elevation of Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin to serve its Southwest California Synod.

The Episcopal Church in 2003 was the first major Christian denomination to elect an openly gay bishop, the Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson — a move that rocked the Anglican Communion, prompting some U.S. congregations to join foreign dioceses and others to form a rival Anglican denomination.

While the world waits for Pastor Rohrer’s leadership, their social media presence paints a picture of a minister who moves through life with humility, warmth and a healthy sense of humor and history. Here’s a sampling.

For starters, they speak both Boomer and Gen X.

They’re all for self-care — and also for a person’s right to tangle with glitter.

They recognize the realness of the quarantine-heightened plant-parent struggle.

They know that call-and-response can happen anywhere, including Twitter.

On the question of preferred pronouns, they break it down.

They have an elegant, loving response to a seemingly complicated question.

They can snark, throw shade and cancel body shaming in 79 characters.

They call out transphobia in a relatable way.

They challenge us to get out of our comfort zones, reminding us that the best way to relate to trans people is to listen.

They underscore the fundamental importance of a loving home.

They pull focus back to where it belongs.

They remind us who we’re called to serve.

And last but not least, they’ve got serious historical perspective.