The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has installed Rev. Megan Rohrer as the first openly transgender bishop to serve in the liberal mainline Protestant denomination’s history.
For the next six years, Rev. Rohrer, 41, who identifies as both a male and female and uses the pronouns “they” and “them,” will head the California-based ELCA Sierra Pacific Synod. In the role, Rohrer will oversee nearly 200 congregations in Northern California and northern Nevada.
Rohrer won on the fifth ballot during the online synod assembly in May, receiving 209 votes and narrowly defeating the Rev. Jeff R. Johnson of Berkeley, California, who received 207 votes. Rohrer’s installation service took place at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Walnut Creek, California, on Sept. 11.
“My installation will celebrate all that is possible when we trust God to shepherd us forward,” Rohrer said, according to The Associated Press. In the role, Rohrer promised to “love others and love what others love.”
Rohrer previously served as pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in San Francisco and a chaplain coordinator for the city’s police department.
As someone who was also a devout Lutheran after coming out as gay, Rohrer decided to go into ministry. However, the congregation associated with Rohrer at the time was “not supportive” of her effort to go into ministry.
“My home congregation originally refused to support me for ministry even more extreme than what the Lutheran Church policy was at the time, so they said, ‘We think Megan will be a great pastor, we just want her to stop being gay first,'” Rohrer said.
Rohrer later attended Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary but did not find that the school was “accepting enough” and later transferred to the Pacific School of Religion. She graduated in 2005 with a master of divinity degree.
In 2006, Rohrer was ordained in the ELCA through an “extraordinary candidacy process,” as the church did not allow LGBT individuals to serve in office. Rohrer’s ordination was officially recognized by the church in 2010 after the ELCA changed its policy — a move that prompted hundreds of congregations to leave the denomination in protest.
Rohrer is one of the seven LGBT pastors accepted by the progressive church since 2010.
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with about 3.3 million members. In recent years, many congregations have left the denomination due to its increasingly progressive stances on theology and politics.
Though Rohrer’s ordination was applauded by many, others took issue with the move. The theologically conservative blog Exposing the ELCA called it “a complete slap in the face to God.”
“The ELCA is thumbing its nose at God, His Word and Truth and effectively showing that they are part of the uber left and its rejection of Christianity,” stated the blog. “How can God-fearing, Bible-believing individuals remain in the ELCA? How can churches remain?”