A group promoting LGBTQ clergy in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has suspended its first transgender bishop over allegations of “racist words and actions” involving the bishop’s church area and the “Latinx community” in Stockton, California.
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries said its board decided Dec. 16 “to suspend” Bishop Megan Rohrer’s membership “in the ELM Proclaim community and events.” The Proclaim program is, ELM says, “the professional community for Lutheran ministers and candidates, who publicly identify as queer.”
Bishop Rohrer was installed three months ago as leader of the church’s Sierra Pacific Synod.
ELM said Bishop Rohrer exhibited “an existing pattern of behavior” that doesn’t fit with its goal of “being an anti-racist organization.”
The group said the bishop’s membership suspension “is not only a response to recent harm done … to the Latinx community in Stockton, CA,” noting it came after Bishop Rohrer rebuffed an “invitation” to repair relationships ruptured by “the bishop’s racist words and actions [that] have harmed members of the ELM staff, board, and community.”
Officials of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries did not respond to email and telephone requests for details about what Bishop Rohrer and the Sierra Pacific Synod allegedly did to cause offense and harm.
Neither Bishop Rohrer nor a spokeswoman for the Sierra Pacific Synod immediately responded to a request for comment.
A spokeswoman at the Chicago headquarters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church In America did not respond to a request for comment.
Bishop Rohrer, 41, who is believed to be the nation’s first transgender bishop, was installed as leader of the ELCA’s Sierra Pacific Synod on Sept. 11 for a six-year term.
Roughly equivalent to a Roman Catholic or Episcopalian archdiocese, the synod comprises 188 Evangelical Lutheran congregations in California and northern Nevada.
When ordained, the cleric expressed the hope that sexual identity would fade in importance.
“My fervent prayer [is we] will have a day when all people’s private parts are private matters. And we don’t have to talk about it in public and lift up who’s transgender or who’s not transgender,” Bishop Rohrer said in a Sept. 15 interview.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, formed by a 1988 merger of the Lutheran Church in America, the American Lutheran Church, and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, claims 8,900 congregations across the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
It has 65 synods, ranging from districts of 30 congregations to one containing close to 300. The church said that in 2020 it had 3.3 million baptized members in the ELCA, which is nearly 2 million fewer than when the movement was formed.