A synod in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ECLA) made history over the weekend when they elected a transgender person as their bishop. According to the Religious News Service, the Reverend Megan Rohrer of the Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in San Francisco was elected on the 5th ballot in Sierra Pacific synod’s episcopal elections held Saturday, May 8. They become the first-ever transgender bishop of a major Christian denomination within the U.S. The Sierra Pacific Synod encompasses over 180 churches and 36,000 worshipers in the northern parts of California and Nevada.
“It’s an honor to be called to serve the Sierra Pacific Synod,” Rohrer said in a written statement to the Religion News Service. “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 born and raised in South Dakota but moved to San Francisco in 2002 to attend Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary before transferring to the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. They were ordained in 2006 under an “extraordinary candidacy process” to avoid church policy on LGBTQ+ ministers at the time, and was officially ordained in 2010.
The 41-year-old Rohrer was installed as the spiritual leader of the Grace Evangelical Church in San Francisco in 2014. They church is well-known in the area both for its LGBTQ+ activism and outreach to the homeless community. Rohrer explained to the Bay Area Reporter how they made mass more appealing to youth.
"The worship that we used at the installation was created for an evening worship at St. Aidan's Episcopal," Rohrer said at the time. “In hope of attracting young people and those new to the church, I created a Lady Gaga Mass. The service gained a lot of attention, and I was able to share it at congregations around the country.”
While the services were a hit with the younger audience, Rohrer had to also offer a Beatles Mass because the “older generation had a difficult time” recognizing the new generation’s music.
In 2012, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors declared August 12 as “Pastor Megan Rohrer Day” for their work with the LGBTQ+ and transgender homeless communities. Rohrer is also the first LGBTQ+ person to serve as chaplain for the San Francisco Police Department.
On their website, the bishop-elected describes herself living near Golden Gate Park in San Francisco with her wife, Laurel, two children, and three cats. They posted a photo on Saturday showing Rohrer and their children watching the synod elections online.
Rohrer will now serve a six-year term as bishop.