San Francisco pastor to become Lutheran church's first openly transgender bishop

A San Francisco pastor has made history, being elected as the first openly transgender bishop of any major U.S. Christian denomination.

On Saturday, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Sierra Pacific Synod selected Rev. Megan Rohrer as its next bishop. 

On May 8, 2021, Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer was elected as bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), to become the first transgender bishop in the ELCA. (Sierra Pacific Synod)

Rohrer, who uses the pronouns they and them, currently serves as pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in San Francisco’s Sunset District, which calls itself "a small but mighty congregation… unafraid of sharing God's love to the full diversity of creation."

Rohrer, a parent to two children ages 7 and 8, is also community chaplain coordinator for the San Francisco Police Department and has been recognized for their work and advocacy to help the homeless. 

Rohrer was born and raised in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and came to the Bay Area in 2002 to attend Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, later transferring to Pacific School of Religion, also located in Berkeley. 

In the biographical information submitted as part of the Sierra Pacific Synod’s election process, Rohrer described themself as a transformational leader, saying, "I believe in motivating people and organizations by being a positive role model, developing a collective vision, and working towards long-term goals." They also shared, "I have provided pastoral care far beyond the walls of building. As a public figure, I believe in modeling positivity, civil discourse and God’s unending grace." 


The 41-year-old pastor’s public reach has been wide, as the pioneering leader was also the first openly transgender Lutheran pastor ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in 2006, under what was described as an "extraordinary candidacy process." The process allowed for the ordination by sidestepping the ELCA’s national policy on LGBTQ ministers at that time.

It wasn’t until 2010, that Rohrer’s ordination was officially recognized. On the Grace Church website it explained the move was a first of its kind when "On July 25, 2010 Megan was one of 7 GLBT pastors in the San Francisco Bay Area who were previously barred from serving the church who were received/reinstated to the roster of the ELCA." In 2014, Rohrer become Grace Church’s first openly transgender pastor. 

Those distinctions and Rohrer’s activism advocating for LGBTQ rights have brought the pastor national attention, being featured in Time Magazine and Cosmopolitan. Last summer, Rohrer also appeared on the television series "Queer Eye." The pastor has used the national spotlight to discuss and advance issues of faith, gender, and inclusion, as well as to bring attention to the work of the church. 

The bishop-elect will transition to their new role in the Sierra Pacific Synod in Sacramento in July. The pastor told KTVU that they planned to make frequent visits back, as the outgoing SFPD chaplain coordinator joked that they'll come by to meet with members of the department wearing their "fancy new robes."

Rohrer's official installation into the six year term as bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod is scheduled for Sept. 11 at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Walnut Creek.