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US church installs its 1st openly transgender bishop

September 12, 2021

Megan Rohrer, 41, has become the first openly transgender bishop with the pronouns "they/he" at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

Bishop Megan Rohrer speaks to the press before their installation ceremony at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco
Bishop Megan Rohrer spoke to the press before their installation ceremonyImage: John Hefti/AP Photo/picture alliance

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America on Saturday installed its first openly transgender bishop.

Reverend Megan Rohrer was elected in May to serve as the bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod — one of the church's 65 synods — and will oversee nearly 200 congregations in Northern California and northern Nevada.

The installation ceremony took place at the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

A 'historic' move

"I step into this role because a diverse community of Lutherans in Northern California and Nevada prayerfully and thoughtfully voted to do a historic thing,'' Rohrer, who uses the pronouns "they" and "he," said in a statement.

"My installation will celebrate all that is possible when we trust God to shepherd us forward." 

"My call is... to be up to the same messy, loving things I was up to before,'' Rohrer told churchgoers.

"But mostly, if you'll let me, and I think you will, my hope is to love you and beyond that, to love what you love."

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America is one of the largest Christian denominations in the US and has about 3.3 million members.

Who is Megan Rohrer?

Rohrer, 41, was ordained in 2006. They served as a pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in San Francisco in 2014 and as the chaplain coordinator for the city's police department.

Rohrer, who is married and has two children, was one of seven LGBTQ  pastors accepted by the progressive Evangelical Lutheran church in 2010 after it allowed pastors in same-sex relationships to be ordained.

They studied religion at Augustana University in South Dakota, before moving to California to pursue master and doctoral degrees at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley.

Bishops Megan Rohrer, left, and Marc Andrus pose for the media
"Lutherans have shown once again that transgender people are wonderful children of God," Rohrer said after their electionImage: John Hefti/AP Photo/picture alliance

Rohrer received national attention when they talked about their experience as a young LGBTQ Christian on the reality TV series "Queer Eye."

Unlike gay bishops in mainline Protestant churches in the US,  transgender people are slow to find acceptance as church leaders.

Rohrer's election is a first in the Lutheran denomination and other major Christian denominations in the US.

#ENTR: My pronouns are they/them

dvv/fb (AP, KNA)