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Religion: Lutherans elect Transgender Bishop

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Photo by Megan Rohrer via AP
Photo by Megan Rohrer via AP

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has elected its first Transgender bishop. The Rev. Megan Rohrer will serve as bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod, based in Sacramento and comprising about 200 congregations in Northern California and Nevada.

Although it uses the word "evangelical" in its title for historical reasons, the ELCA is a mainline Protestant denomination, and is the largest Lutheran group in the United States. It is the only Lutheran body to recognize same-sex marriages and ordain LGBTQ clergy.

Once installed in their new diocese, Rohrer will be the first Trans bishop in a major Christian denomination.

"I am humbled and honored, and aware that this call is bigger than me," Rohrer said in a speech after the ballots were counted on May 8.

"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 the Lutheran Church, bishops are elected by the congregations of their synods, and serve six-year terms.

Rohrer currently serves as pastor at San Francisco's Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church and as a community chaplain coordinator for the city's police department. They are well-known for their advocacy work with homeless and LGBTQ communities in the Bay Area and on a national level.

Long road to acceptance

In a 2014 interview, Rohrer told San Francisco's KALW radio that when they came out as Lesbian in their Lutheran college they were harassed by their peers.

"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.' And I would just sing harmony. I didn't know what to do," they said.

In a 2017 Cosmopolitan magazine profile, Rohrer spoke about how the abuse directed at them strengthened their resolve to pursue religious education "to vocalize what I knew in my gut was OK."

After college, they began to identify as Transgender, and later found acceptance at a progressive Lutheran seminary in Berkeley, California.

In 2006, Rohrer was ordained as a priest through an "extraordinary candidacy process." Their ordainment was officially recognized by the church in 2010 after the denomination changed its policy to welcome LGBTQ clergy.

Last year, Rohrer made a TV appearance on the fifth-season premiere of Queer Eye , in which they gave support to an openly Gay bishop in Philadelphia.

Rohrer told NPR, "I am honored and humbled by the Synod's affirmation of my leadership skills. And, I am delighted that my election points to the unending love God has for Their fabulously diverse creation."