ELCA trans bishop resigns following allegations of racism, disciplinary process

The Rev. Megan Rohrer, the first trans-identified bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, speaks during livestream in 2022. | YouTube/Megan Rohrer

The first trans-identified bishop in the history of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has resigned amid allegations of racism and other issues.

Bishop Megan Rohrer, who is a female but uses “they/them” pronouns, posted a statement on Facebook Monday explaining that she was stepping down as bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod.

Rohrer noted that the official resignation occurred on Saturday, after spending time with family and having “a conversation with the Synod Council.”

“The final details of that agreement are still being negotiated, but I believe in light of today's news, this information should be made public,” stated Rohrer.

Rohrer’s announcement came about the same time that ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, head of the mainline Protestant denomination, announced that a disciplinary process would be initiated against Rohrer.

Eaton, who had initially opposed taking disciplinary measures against Rohrer, announced that the process would be taken during a Sunday evening meeting of the ELCA Conference of Bishops that Rohrer did not attend.

“I shared that I am initiating the discipline process immediately, including suspension of Bishop Rohrer, based on additional information that has come to light,” Eaton explained.

“The COB strongly affirmed this decision. This process will take time, and I will provide updates as appropriate. I ask for your continued prayers for this church.”

Rohrer has taken issue with the disciplinary process, claiming in a Facebook post that the process was happening “even after I resigned, without providing any specifics about what I allegedly did, and that appears to be in conflict with their own procedures.”

Last September, Rohrer became the first trans-identified individual to be made a bishop in the ELCA, having previously served as community chaplain coordinator for the San Francisco Police Department and as pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in San Francisco.

Shortly after being installed as bishop, allegations surfaced that Rohrer had engaged in unethical behaviors, including the purportedly racist firing of Pastor Nelson Rabell-Gonzalez of Misión Latina Luterana and litigation surrounding Rohrer's actions as pastor of Grace Lutheran Evangelical Church of San Francisco, among other matters.

This led many in the synod to call for Rohrer's resignation, with the presiding bishop agreeing to have a listening team go to the regional body and hear their concerns. 

Last month, Eaton issued a statement calling for Rohrer to resign as bishop, believing that Rohrer had “lost the trust and confidence of many constituents, both within and without the Sierra Pacific Synod.”

“We strive to address the ways that all forms of injustice limit participation and harm people, communities, and the whole body of Christ. That work will never be done, but together, we must continue to do and be better,” Eaton said at the time.

Some, among them the Latino Ministries Association of the ELCA, took issue with Eaton’s response, specifically the presiding bishop’s initial refusal to launch a disciplinary process.

“In this weak and compassionless statement, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton framed racist actions as ‘unwise decisions’ and ‘unfortunate events,’ completely ignoring the suffering of an entire community of color of the church-body she is called to serve,” stated the LMA.

“Communities of color in this church should be concerned about the inability of the presiding bishop to support and protect them against systemic racism.”

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