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Megan Rohrer has been making history their entire life.

Rohrer, who prefers they/them pronouns, served as pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in San Francisco from 2014 until 2021. What made Rohrer's ministry so groundbreaking is the fact that they are the first out transgender person to serve as a lead or solo pastor at a Lutheran congregation.

Throughout their time at Grace Lutheran Rohrer reached out to many communities, welcoming all who wished to worship at their congregation. But Rohrer did much more than just tend to the spiritual needs of their flock. Rohrer was also active with San Francisco Night Ministry.

"This is a group of pastors who provide a presence on the streets of San Francisco from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.," Rohrer said. "The Night Ministry also operates a crisis line."

Night Ministry provides counsel and spiritual comfort to the homeless and visits LGBT bars. In addition to their work with Night Ministry, Rohrer has also served as chaplain to the San Francisco Police Department.

Rohrer is now making history in a new and unprecedented way. They have just been elected to serve as bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod, making them the first openly transgender bishop of a major American Christian denomination. The Sierra Pacific Synod covers central and northern California and northern Nevada and supports Lutheran congregations throughout that region.

Rohrer recalls being active in the church in high school.

"Then Matthew Shepard died," they said. "And all the public conversations about faith and LGBTQ things meant that I was trying to express why I knew that God loved me in a world that for some reason needed to keep debating it. Through that process I ended up taking a bunch of religion classes and became a religion major and had people telling me that I shouldn't be a pastor."

While studying and working as a counselor for abused and neglected children at a children's home Rohrer encountered a child who had attempted suicide several times.

"They finally told me that the reason they were doing that was because they believed that they needed to die before they went to hell," Rohrer said. "They had been told of these terrible things from a pulpit, and so I decided that there needed to be at least one pulpit where kids weren't going to hear messages like that."

Rohrer was first called through a group called Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. When the official Lutheran church tried to require celibacy for LGBT pastors, the group followed an older set of Lutheran rules which said that when the church tried to force a pastor to be celibate, congregations could ordain pastors on their own without permission. Rohrer was among the first 18 pastors who were ordained extraordinarily. In 2009 the national Lutheran church changed its policy and made it possible for LGBT pastors to serve openly.

Their election as bishop made national and international news and saw Rohrer was interviewed on Good Morning America.

"Every year I do the service for the Transgender Day of Remembrance," they said. "So many people who are killed the most brutally are from countries that have very high rates of Christians in them. For some people their violence is motivated, they believe, by their faith. If I could be a counter-narrative to that, if my picture can be in the paper in those places, then I hope that my picture being in papers around the world is going to stir up the imagination that trans people can be faithful and wonderful, and to have a more balanced way of understanding trans folks."

Rohrer reports that they had mixed feelings when they realized that they had been elected bishop due to the press coverage they knew would follow. Due to all the political issues going on around trans people these days, they knew it could be dangerous for their family.

"There was a part of me that was really excited, because just the fact that I exist, the fact that there is a transgender bishop is a great way to provide hope for people," they said. "Because I get messages on social media nearly every week from trans people and their family members who struggle with whether or not they feel like their life can be rich enough that they can continue living it or whether or not they should take their own life. So to feel like I could be someone who could be a role model enough that it would give people hope to keep living when they're in a hard place. For me it felt like it was a life-giving moment. And as the parent of a trans kid it felt like it was a great opportunity to kind of pave the pathway that was going to make my own child's life better."

They report that the overwhelming majority of the public was supportive of them becoming bishop. They've received hundreds of thousands of messages of congratulations since the news broke, and only four or five questions about their "body parts."

"I'm pretty proud of our congregations," they said. "They've been really on it. With a big drought coming, and we've got wildfires near some of our congregations, they really are just trying to care for the people in their immediate area, and for the most part my body has concerned them less than how we can be faithful together."

Rohrer says that they want to extend an invitation to anyone who might be surprised by their election, and by the fact that there is a church that is welcoming of LGBT folks.

"To anyone who wants to join us in the pews or just wants to pray with us, or to just check out what we're about," they said. "For folks who are interested in seeing how church spaces have changed, maybe giving it a chance if you're researching churches before you go, if they look up the words reconciling or affirming it's the secret code words of the churches that particularly do outreach and care to LGBTQ folks."

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