Lutherans choose transgender bishop for California, Nevada region

Tue. May 11, 2021 8:42 AM by Gerald Farinas

The ELCA, the largest traditional Lutheran denomination, has elected an openly transgender bishop for California. The Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer (they/them) is the first transgender bishop in the Chicago-headquartered Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Rohrer was elected on May 8 to serve a six-year term.

The new bishop will oversee the Sacramento-based Sierra Pacific Synod—what Lutherans call a diocese. It is comprised of almost 200 congregations in northern and central California and northern Nevada.

The Rev. Jeff R. Johnson of Bekeley, Calif. received 207 votes to Rohrer's 209.

The bishop-elect served as pastor in a San Francisco church since 2014 and was concurrently chaplain of the San Francisco Police Department since 2018.

Rohrer will be installed in a ceremony scheduled for September 11 at Saint Matthew Lutheran Church in Walnut Creek, Calif.

LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign labels the ELCA as a major religious ally.

“Of the three leading Lutheran organizations operating in the United States, the ELCA is considered the most welcoming and inclusive of LGBT members,” the Washington D.C. group said.

In 1991, a convention of the ELCA declared, “Gay and lesbian people, as individuals created by God, are welcome to participate fully in the life of the congregations of the [ELCA].”

The statement was radical in American Christianity—even receiving criticism by other denominations like the Southern Baptist Convention.

Later, the Church openly advocated for transgender persons.

Openly LGBT members were eventually allowed to be ordained to the ministries of the Church and be chosen pastor. But congregations could decide for themselves if they wanted to employ them.

When marriage equality was legalized in the U.S., the ELCA allowed individual pastors and congregations to decide for themselves whether to administer same-sex weddings.

The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the U.S. with nearly 3.3 million members. Its roots come directly from the Catholic Church—its liturgical styles and rites are identical—and the writings of church reformer Martin Luther.