The initially feel-good story of the first trans Lutheran bishop in the U.S. has now taken another contentious turn, as SF’s Rev. Megan Rohrer is suing the Lutheran Church over his June resignation that he now alleges was orchestrated by higher-ups.
It was suddenly fashionable to be Lutheran for about a year between 2021 and 2022, or rather, it was fashionable to attend the Outer Sunset’s Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, after their pastor Rev, Megan Rohrer (he/him) was elected the first openly transgender bishop of in a major U.S. Christian denomination. Yet Rev. Rohrer would resign from that post a little over a year later, over the firing of a lower-ranking reverend in his northern California/Nevada jurisdiction that brought allegations of racism, and counter allegations of discrimination and harassment. The whole saga is now getting more complicated, as the Chronicle reports that Rohrer is suing the Lutheran Church in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
According to a press release announcing the lawsuit, “Rohrer alleges that upon being elected, Church leadership resisted him, and he was repeatedly misgendered, ridiculed, and demeaned by clergy and congregants alike. Rohrer brings a claim for harassment on the basis of his sexual orientation and gender identity. He also alleges he was terminated for blowing the whistle on the Church’s violations of California labor laws.”
Rohrer’s June 2022 resignation as bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod (consisting of roughly 200 NorCal and Nevada congregations) was initially attributed to blowback over the December 12, 2021 firing of Rev. Nelson Rabell-González from the Misión Latina Luterana in Stockton. That firing was reported in the Chronicle as being attributed to “more than a dozen incidents” of “verbal harassment and retaliation,” But Rabell-González’s December 12 firing happened to occur on Our Lady of Guadalupe Feast Day, a significant Mexican-American religious holiday, bringing backlash from the primarily Latinx congregation.
The Synod Council said in a February 2022 statement that “This unfortunate situation is a clear and painful example of how systemic racism is deeply rooted in our church, and the long journey ahead of us to dismantle it.” Rohrer resigned as bishop four months later.
But now Rohrer says he was pushed. “Rohrer further alleges the Church defamed him by repeatedly implying he was ‘racist’ in terminating a Latino pastor following a two-year investigation into more than a dozen accusations against the pastor of verbal harassment, retaliation, and ‘abusive activity,’ the lawsuit’s release says. “As alleged in the Complaint, Rohrer was required to follow the Church’s directive to terminate the pastor on Dec. 12, the Feast Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe the Church.”
The release adds that the Lutheran Church “opened up an ‘investigation’ about Rohrer’s ‘racist motivations,’ forced him out of his role as Bishop, and made several harmful, defamatory statements portraying Rohrer as 'racist' and dangerous."
“I was pretty much left to be the person who took the blame,” Rohrer told the Chronicle. “I was the person receiving the blowback. And eventually, it grew stronger and stronger, and I was pushed out of the church.”
Related: Nation's First Openly Trans Lutheran Bishop, SF’s Rev. Megan Rohrer, Resigns Amid Political Furor in Lutheran Church [SFist]
Image: @mmrohrer via Twitter