The Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer, the first out transgender pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is now the denomination’s first out trans bishop.
Rohrer, who currently serves a church in San Francisco, was elected Saturday to a six-year term as bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod. The synod covers nearly 200 churches in central and northern California and northern Nevada. Rohrer is also the first out trans bishop in any major Christian denomination, NPR reports.
“I am humbled and honored, and aware that this call is bigger than me,” Rohrer said in a speech after their election, according to NPR. “My hope is that your grandkids will call you and your kids will call you and your friends will call you and ask you about your faith. And when they call, tell them how much you love Jesus and why Jesus’ faith in you meant why you could have faith in me.”
In a statement to Religion News Service, Rohrer added, “It’s an honor to be called to serve the Sierra Pacific Synod. 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, now 41, came out as lesbian while attending Augustana University in South Dakota and as transgender after college. The Lutheran university, in the state where they grew up, was not a welcoming place for LGBTQ+ students at the time, Rohrer told California public radio station KALW in 2014.
“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,” they recalled. “And I would just sing harmony. I didn’t know what to do.”
Rohrer found a friendlier environment at a Lutheran seminary in Berkeley, Calif., and was ordained as a pastor in 2006 through what the ELCA calls an “extraordinary candidacy process,” as the denomination’s regular ordination process was not open to out LGBTQ+ clergy at the time. In 2010 it changed its policy and began allowing openly LGBTQ+ clergy members, and in 2015 Asher O’Callaghan became the first trans minister ordained through the regular process. The largest Lutheran body in the U.S., it is now one of the most progressive Christian churches. The second largest, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, does not allow LGBTQ+ or female clergy.
Rohrer has been pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in San Francisco since 2014. They have been active in serving the Bay Area’s homeless population and advocating for other social justice causes, including marriage equality, and raised bail money for a trans woman arrested in Iowa in 2015. Rohrer is also a community chaplain coordinator for the San Francisco Police Department and a Lambda Literary Award-nominated author. Last year they appeared on Queer Eye to offer support to a gay bishop in Philadelphia.
Rohrer lives in San Francisco with their wife, Laurel, and two children.