A congregation in California under the Evangelical Lutheran Church is calling for the resignation of its first trans-identified bishop over racism allegations.
The California-based ELCA Sierra Pacific Synod, which belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and has a large LGBT following, is demanding its first trans-identified bishop to resign. Rev. Megan Rohrer, who uses "they/them" pronouns, became the first trans-identified bishop in ELCA history in September 2021. But the bishop now faces allegations of racist behavior amidst other controversial issues.
The Christian Post reported that Rohrer has been accused of racist behavior toward a Hispanic Lutheran pastor and a slew of other controversial issues that caused some to call for the bishop's resignation or removal from ELCA Church. On March 22, the Fresno-based ELCA congregation called the Congregation Council of Our Savior's Lutheran Church, which boasts of a 50% LGBT membership, passed a resolution calling for the removal of Rohrer and the Synod Council.
The resolution, which was approved by a unanimous vote, called for ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and the Conference of Bishops, among other church leaders to begin the process of removing Rohrer and the Synod Council's authority. The resolution outlined reasons for removing them from power, including the alleged mistreatment by Rohrer of Pastor Nelson Rabell-Gonzalez of Misión Latina Luterana, which included his firing. The resolution also cited litigation over Rohrer's service as pastor of Grace Lutheran Evangelical Church of San Francisco, and other issues.
"Rohrer's approach to pastoral ministry is incompatible with the expectations of ordained clergy of the ELCA - a pattern of abuse, bullying, manipulation of facts, deceit, and character assassination," the resolution stated. It added that while being the "first transgender bishop of the ELCA, should be cause for great celebration," they cannot ignore Rohrer's missteps, which were described as "embarrassment to the LGBTQIA+ members" of the church.
Among the demands of the Our Savior's Lutheran Church cited in the resolution was the beginning of the process of removing Rohrer and Synod Council from office, as well as the reversal of actions taken against Rabell-Gonzalez and others, and a public apology to Rabell-Gonzalez. The church said it will refrain from participating in activities of the Sierra Pacific Synod while Rohrer and the Synod Council remain in power.
In late March, Eaton released a statement saying she has established a Listening Team to work in the Sierra Pacific Synod, where interviews will be conducted. She described the interviews as "holy listening to people who have been affected in various ways by the situation." She added that the Listening team is composed of members who "represent the diversity of the church." The Listening Team is set to conclude their activities after Easter and provide a report or "advisory document for Eaton's "prayerful discernment and decision-making."
Rohrer had already been experiencing the repercussions of their actions. In December 2021, the transgender bishop's membership from the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM), a group that supports LGBT Lutheran clergy, was suspended. ELM cited Rohrer's "existing pattern of behavior" that was not aligned with the organization's "Mission, Vission, and Values...specifically as it pertains to being an anti-racist organization."