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First Trans ELCA Bishop Facing Calls for Removal Over Allegations of Racism, Bullying

Megan Rohrer
Screengrab from YouTube.

Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Fresno, Calif., is calling for the removal of Bishop Megan Rohrer, the first openly trans minister to be ordained by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), in light of allegations of racism and manipulative behavior while serving as a pastor, as well as bishop.

Rohrer oversees ​​nearly 200 congregations in Northern California and northern Nevada. Rohrer also has an active YouTube presence, posting weekly prayers and interviews with authors and activists. 

Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church said that while Rohrer’s being the first transgender bishop to serve in the ELCA “should be cause for great celebration,” Rohrer’s actions are “an embarrassment to the LGBTQIA+ members” of the church, which reports having a membership consisting of more than 50 percent LGBTQIA+ individuals. 

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In a resolution addressed to “Presiding Bishop of the Church, Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, the Conference of Bishops, and other appropriate bodies within the Church,” Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church alleged that while pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in San Francisco, Calif., Rohrer circumvented the congregation’s constitution and bylaws, thereby “disenfranchising long-time members.”

According to the resolution, Rohrer allegedly created a new category of voting members in order to pad congregational votes in important decisions, even making four and five-year-old children full voting members of the church. Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church went on to sue Rohrer. 

Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church further alleges that while serving as bishop, Rohrer “‘ecclesiastically lynched’ Pastor Nelson Rabell-Gonzalez of Misión Latina Luterana by defaming his character, questioning his mental stability, painting him as an out of control [person of color] pastor, and denying him due process to defend himself and confront his accusers.” 

Misión Latina Luterana is a Spanish-language ministry associated with Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church. 

The resolution stated that most of Rabell-Gonzalez’s accusers came from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Lodi, Calif., a congregation from which he had allegedly been ousted for his anti-racism work in Lodi. Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church further argued that Rohrer purposely chose the date to fire Rabell to inflict emotional harm—the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, an important celebration for Misión Latina Luterana.

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In light of these allegations, should Rohrer not be removed, Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church has resolved to stop participating in any Synod meetings, activities, or assemblies and will begin the process of severing its relationship with the ELCA should Rohrer be allowed to continue serving as bishop without any disciplinary action. The church is also demanding that Rabell-Gonzalez be reinstated and awarded back pay.