Who is Rev Megan Rohrer? First trans Lutheran bishop in US says people tried to rid them of 'gay demons'
Rev Megan Rohrer who currently serves a church in San Francisco, was elected on May 8, Saturday, to a six-year term as bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, making her the first transgender bishop in the denomination or any of the major Christian faiths in the United States. The synod covers nearly 200 churches in central and northern California and northern Nevada.
Rohrer, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in San Francisco and community chaplain leader for the San Francisco Police Department, was the first transgender person to be ordained in the ELCA in 2006 and the first transgender person to serve as a pastor when they were called to Grace Lutheran in 2014. Here's all you need to know about Rohrer.
Who is Rev Megan Rohrer?
The pastor, bishop-elect, and activist was born in 1980 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Rohrer, who uses the pronouns they and them, graduated from high school in 1998 and enrolled at Augustana University to pursue a degree in religion. They came out as a lesbian in college and went on to become the founder of the Gay-Straight Alliance. They faced opposition, threats and attempted "cure" for their sexuality from their peers. Rohrer earned his bachelor's degree from Augustana in 2001.
“I grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which is the Midwest and cultural heartland of Lutherans,” said Rohrer to KALW. “The motto [there] is like: Be in the paper when you’re born and when you die and don’t get credit for anything in between. Because your job is to just, like, fit in.”
Rohrer, 41, was raised in a religious household where people recognized their gift for helping others as children, so ministry seemed like a natural fit. However, faith was no longer accepting of them when they came out as a lesbian while attending a Lutheran college. “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,” Rohrer said.
In 2002, Rohrer relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area to further their education. They had come to terms with the fact that they were transgender by this point. Rohrer earned a Master of Divinity in 2005 and a Doctor of Ministry in 2016 from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California.
Great-grandchild of Nicholas of Flüe
Rohrer is the 16th great-grandchild of Nicholas of Flüe, the Swiss hermit and ascetic who is the patron saint of Switzerland, who is sometimes invoked as Brother Klaus. "For those interested in a Bishop-elect fun fact: My 16th great grandfather, Brother Klaus or St Nicholas of Flüe, is the patron saint of Switzerland," they said in a tweet.
For those interested in a Bishop-elect fun fact: My 16th great grand father, Brother Klaus or St Nicholas of Flüe, is the patron saint of Switzerland. https://t.co/zeMwLSctTk— Bishop-elect Megan Rohrer (@mmrohrer) May 9, 2021
After the national assembly voted to allow married gay people to serve as clergy, Rohrer and six other Bay Area gay and transgender pastors were reinstated into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in 2010. Previously, the pastors' churches had been expelled from the denomination for ordaining gay and lesbian clergy who declined to take celibacy vows, according to the San Fransisco Chronicle.
In 2017, Rohrer was hired by the San Francisco Police Department as their first chaplain from the LGBTQ community. “The more SFPD officers feel like they are supported and are not anxious when they’re out doing the vital work that they do,” Rohrer said to NBC, “the more they can pass that on to the community.”
'Trans people are beautiful children of God'
Rohrer is well-known for their work with the homeless and for campaigning for LGBTQ rights in street advocacy, preaching, and publishing, the Daily Mail reported. "It's an honor to be called to serve the Sierra Pacific Synod," Rohrer, who is set to be installed as bishop on July 1, said to Religion News Service in a written statement.
"During this time when some imagine trans people at their worst, Lutherans have once again declared that transgender people are beautiful children of God. Thank you to everyone who has been praying for me and my family as I accept this call," they added.
After the vote, the New York Times quoted Rohrer as saying: "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’s faith in you meant why you could have faith in me."
Rohrer has also gained minor celebrity status as a result of appearances on the television show 'Queer Eye,' as well as profiles in Time and Cosmopolitan, in which they recounted their experiences as a young LGBTQ Christian and a person coming to terms physically and spiritually with their gender.