US church appoints first Transgender Bishop

“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.”

ELCA's first transgender bishop, Megan Rohrer smiles in front of a colourful backdrop with a religious painting to the left

History was made over the weekend as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) appointed their first Transgender Bishop.

Bishop Megan Rohrer, whose pronouns are he/they, has been elected to serve a six-year term as bishop after the church’s current bishop announced his retirement. Rohrer will lead one of the church’s 65 synods, overseeing 200 congregations in the California and Nevada regions according to the Associated Press.

The Reverend Rohrer was one of seven LGBTQ+ pastors who were appointed back in 2010 when the ban on the ordination of pastors in same-sex relationships was lifted. He will be installed as bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, one of America’s largest Christian denominations with around 3.3 million members.

In a press release Rohrer said:

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

Senior director of the GLAAD Media Institute and ELCA deacon, Ross Murray will be an assisting minister in the ceremony. Murray spoke to American LGBTQ+ magazine, The Advocate, about Rohrer’s historic appointment as the ECLA’s first transgender bishop.

“While Bishop Rohrer’s installation is a historic step in LGBTQ+ leadership in the church, it is a continuation of the ministry that Bishop Rohrer has been doing for their whole ministry,” “They recognise the face of God in the marginalised and the privileged, and focus their ministry on youth, the homeless, people of colour, LGBTQ people, and others historically left out of the life of the church.”

Along with the ceremony taking place, many other events ran too including a listening session with the Rev. Nicole Garcia, the first Latinx transgender pastor in the ELCA; a roller-skating event raising funds for a youth camp; and an interfaith memorial service commemorating the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

Speaking with The Advocate, Bishop Rohrer reflected on the poignancy of these events around the ceremony occurring together.

“The diverse events surrounding my installation point to a God who joins us in worship, on the streets, at our jobs, and when we roller-skate. During all the difficulties we have encountered through the pandemic, it is more important than ever to celebrate joy, hope, and love everywhere that we find it.”

The news comes at a time when the topic of the LGBTQ+ life and culture within the Catholic church’s teachings continues to be hotly debated. On home turf this year, a Tyrone-based Reverend resigned from his position stating that the Church of Ireland is ‘structurally, culturally, and socially homophobic’. While in May, The Association of Catholic Priests called on the Bishops of Ireland for a more compassionate treatment of gay Catholics.

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