SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Reverend Dr. Megan Rohrer is the bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod, overseeing nearly 200 evangelical Lutheran congregations from Central California and Nevada up to Oregon.
The bishop is making history.
“It made the history books because I'm the first openly transgender bishop in the Lutheran Church and maybe in all of the mainline churches across the world,” Rohrer said.
Rohrer says becoming bishop as a transgender person was not something they anticipated so soon.
“It was a shock," Rohrer said. "It was just a very unexpected thing for me when I was elected, but a very gratifying process to have so many people believe in my leadership skills and be ready for this.”
Rohrer’s pronouns are “they” and “them” instead of “he” or “she” because they don't want to be put in a box.
“The ideas and the expectations about what it means to be male or what it means to be female are not fully something that I identify with.”
Rohrer says there have been challenges on their faith journey when people debate their worth as a transgender person. However, Rohrer says they’ll continue to live the life God called them to live by being a faithful person consistently.
“God and I are good," Rohrer said. "And so when someone wants to send me a Bible verse to tell me where I'm wrong, I want to send them some of my favorite Bible verses not to like, have a debate with them because, you know, God never once said, 'Let's take a vote before deciding who God loves.' But because like, that's exactly why I think the Bible is such an important book. Like because the people that are going to preach the opposite of me for the rest of my life are just as loved by God as I am. And the book that I think is sacred fills their heart just as much as it fills my heart.”
Rohrer says their relationship with God has been strong ever since they were a child, and they don’t doubt God loves them.
“When I was about six, my parents were getting divorced and it was a very violent divorce, and there was this period where like, everything in the house got destroyed and we were going back to the house to see if there were any toys or anything like we could take with us. And I just had this deep knowing that like, God loved me and was with me. And if all this stuff in our house was broken like as a 6-year-old to lose all your toys, it's a big deal, right? But I just had this deep knowing like like that Jesus was on my side and that I didn't need toys because like Jesus was there.”
Rohrer says their role as bishop is a big step in the church, opening the doors for other LGBTQ leaders and spreading the message that God loves everyone. Rohrer hopes that in the future, gender identity isn’t as big of a deal. And that others realize God can work through all the diversity of creation.
“Folk who use scripture just to belittle or to be racist or to exclude, I think, are being spiritually abusive, and I hope to be the kind of bishop who can care for people who have heard those messages to work for healing," Rohrer said. "Living faithfully consistently changes the church more than debating.”
Rohrer says if what Jesus says is true, then love is the greatest commandment and Rohrer plans to honor that.