The Evangelical Lutheran Church has anointed its first transgender bishop, becoming the first major U.S. denomination to do so.
Megan Rohrer was installed at a service held in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral on Saturday, kicking off a six-year term in the Sierra Pacific Synod. The 41-year-old made national headlines in May after being elected to the position, in which Rohrer will oversee more than 200 congregations in California and Nevada. The Evangelical Lutheran Church counts over 3.3 million followers in the U.S.
In a speech before congregants, Rohrer said that they are called in their new position to “be up to the same messy, loving things I was up to before.” “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,” they said in comments reported by the Associated Press.
Prior to their election, Rohrer previously served as Grace Lutheran Church’s pastor for seven years. They also spearheaded the church’s resources for individuals experiencing poverty and have worked in pastoral care for the Night Ministry, which primarily interfaces with members of the LGBTQ+ community and people at risk of houselessness.
Rohrer, who is married and has two children, was first ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in 2010, after it allowed LGBTQ+ people to join in ministerial roles for the first time.
Evangelical Lutherans, who comprise the largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S., have widely embraced Rohrer, according to the progressive Christian magazine Sojourners. Reverend Tia Pelz, a Lutheran pastor based in Fremont, Calif., hailed Rohrer as a religious leader who is “able to bridge divides, to be fully themselves but meet people where they are.”
“I think they’re a great role model for what we as pastors should be like,” Pelz told Sojourners.
Reverend Marc Handley Andrus, a longtime colleague and the current bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California, further exalted Rohrer as someone who is able to “radiate joy and welcome” in their interactions with others.
“Justice is not a grim activity,” he said in a press conference prior to the installation. “It’s an activity of overflowing love, and I think they exemplify that.”
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Rohrer recognized the greater significance of the moment and called it “humbling.” They said, however, that their focus will continue to be serving their congregants and carrying out their faith.
“And I know that while much of the attention is about me, I always try, when I can, to step aside a second and remember the God who reminds me over and over again that there is no body that isn’t welcome in a church like this, that isn’t welcome in God’s community, that isn’t a full and faithful part of the church,” they said.
Rohrer wasn’t the only LGBTQ+ leader to shatter a glass ceiling in the Evangelical Lutheran Church this week. Brenda Bos was installed as a bishop in the Southwest California Synod on Sunday after winning election in June, making her the first lesbian to ever hold that position. She will oversee more than 290 congregations in the new role, including churches in California, Arizona, and Nevada.
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