On Saturday, May 8, of this year, the Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer was elected the first out transgender bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, indeed, the first for any denomination. Rohrer, who currently serves a church in San Francisco, was elected Saturday to a six-year term as bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod. The synod covers nearly 200 churches in central and northern California and northern Nevada. At 41 she is considerably younger than many of her peers in that church body but she is also without substantial experience within that church body. Ordained illicitly in 2006, she was not rostered in the ELCA until 2010. Though she was the first ordained against the rules, she was not the first to be ordained after the ELCA changed the rules. The election was also unusual since it was online and not in person.
What is at least as unusual as her notoriety as transgender is the fact that she has little parish experience. In fact, most of her experience is in parachurch organizations. The bishop-elect has served as pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in San Francisco since 2014 and as community chaplain coordinator for the San Francisco Police Department since 2018. She served as executive director of the Welcome Ministry in San Francisco from 2002 to 2014, assistant night minister for the San Francisco Night Ministry from 2013 to 2018 and community garden coordinator at Project Homeless Connect from 2010 to 2012. Rohrer also served as pastor of a multiparish call serving the homeless and hungry at Welcome Ministry from 2006 to 2014.
There can only be one explanation for her election and that is political. She was not elected because she was deeply experienced or because she was the best candidate or because she had a demonstrated character of commitment to the structure and processes of the ELCA. She is none of those things. She was elected only because she was and is transgender. If she had not been transgender, it is highly unlikely her name would have even been on the ballot. The ELCA Synod wanted to make a political statement with her election and make one they did. Sex and gender have become the shibboleths of the ELCA and she passed muster on that issue but only on that issue. Those who elected her have decided that the office of bishop in that church body is more political than ecclesiastical and they have made a travesty of the office and its process of selection. The vote was close and it was clear that the synod was more interested in making headlines than in being faithful in doctrine and practice. But that is the nature of the ELCA since 2009 -- it has become a political body more than an ecclesiastical one.
Oh, and in case you are wondering, she won by one vote over a gay white man who is married to his husband and was himself responsible for setting up the process through which this transgendered person was illicitly ordained in contravention to the ELCA rules at the time. So, as radical as he was, apparently he was not radical enough for the woke crowd.
It makes me wonder why people who disagree remain in the ELCA or on the ministerium of the ELCA. It makes me wonder why serious minded Christians would surrender the faith for the politics of the moment. It makes me wonder in what sense the ELCA can still be called Lutheran? I wish someone would explain it to me. I know that there are serious minded Christians who are interested in what the Bible teaches and in the integrity of the faith once delivered to the saints. How long can you remain in a church body which has chosen politics over faith time and time again? I can imagine that some will laud this as a courageous act but given the statistics on the white and aging nature of the ELCA's membership it is more likely an election out of guilt and shame that there is nothing else to distinguish this church body than political drama. If you are in the ELCA or if any of your family members are, now is the time to ask then why they are still there and what it will finally take for them to leave and when they will make that decision. It is icing on a cake of poison in which the voice of the Scriptures has been silenced and the legacy of Lutheran confessional doctrine and faithful practice ignored. It is not an act of a church but a political statement by people who really do not know what the Gospel is anymore.