Lutheran LGBT ministry suspends ELCA's first trans-identified bishop over alleged 'racist' actions

The Rev. Megan Rohrer, the first openly transgender bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, speaks during an interview with Cosmopolitan in 2018.
The Rev. Megan Rohrer, the first openly transgender bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, speaks during an interview with Cosmopolitan in 2018. | Screengrab: YouTube/Cosmopolitan

A group that supports LGBT Lutheran clergy has suspended the membership of the first trans-identified bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, accusing the church leader of “racist” actions and words.

Bishop Meghan Rohrer, the head of the California-based ELCA Sierra Pacific Synod who uses they/them pronouns, was suspended by the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries board of directors last week. ELM is an organization that organizes queer seminarians and rostered ministers to confront “barriers and systemic oppression.”

As a result of the suspension, Rohrer will not be included in the ELM Proclaim communications and events and will not be invited to events exclusively sponsored by ELM.

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Additionally, ELM asked Rohrer to remove any references to the LGBT Lutheran group from any of the bishop’s articles, biographies, publications and reports.  

In a statement Monday, the ELM board claimed that Rohrer was suspended due to “an existing pattern of behavior” that put the bishop at odds with “ELM’s Mission, Vision, and Values … specifically as it pertains to being an anti-racist organization.”

“This suspension is not only a response to recent harm done by the Sierra Pacific Synod Council and Bishop Rohrer to the Latinx community in Stockton, CA. This is a decision that ELM staff and Board have been discerning for much of 2021,” continued the board.

“The Accountability Team has attempted to work with Bishop Rohrer to specifically address how the bishop’s racist words and actions have harmed members of the ELM staff, board, and community. In September, Bishop Rohrer declined the Accountability Team’s invitation for continued work to repair these relationships.”

The board stated that its members “hope and pray that ELM and Bishop Rohrer can work together to repair our relationships and proclaim together the liberating, life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The board’s statement didn’t elaborate on what Rohrer’s “racist words and actions” were. Recent reports have indicated that the Rev. Nelson Rabell-González of Misión Latina Luterana in Stockton, California, was fired by Rohrer on Dec. 12.  

In May, Rohrer was elected to head the ELCA Sierra Pacific Synod, winning the fifth ballot with 209 votes, narrowly defeating the Rev. Jeff R. Johnson, who received 207 votes.

Before the election, Rohrer served as pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in San Francisco and was the community chaplain coordinator for the San Francisco Police Department.

“All of us are proud of our colleague, Bishop-elect Megan Rohrer, who made history as the first openly transgender person elevated to the role of Bishop by a major Christian denomination in the U.S.,” tweeted the police department at the time.

Rohrer was installed as bishop in September, saying in a statement that taking on the new leadership position would not be possible without “a diverse community of Lutherans in Northern California and Nevada prayerfully and thoughtfully voting to do a historic thing.”

“My installation will celebrate all that is possible when we trust God to shepherd us forward,” stated Rohrer at the time.

Rohrer’s election and installation did not come without criticism, as the Exposing the ELCA blog labeled 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,” posted the blog.

“How can God-fearing, Bible-believing individuals remain in the ELCA? ​How can churches remain?”  

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