It’s a dangerous and disheartening turn when a church forgets, casts aside, or re-writes the biblical and scientific facts of what it means to be human in order to embrace a fashionable new theory. Yet in recently becoming the first major American denomination to ordain an openly trans bishop, this is precisely what the left-leaning Evangelical Lutheran Church in America just did.
Rev. Megan Rohrer, the new bishop, is a very interesting person. Although God joyfully created her female and she still retains her lovely female first name, she employs the plural pronouns “they” and “them” for herself, as well as “he,” and asks the rest of us to do the same. She does not, however, seem to fully identify as a man, and at 41, her “transition” seems to still be in process.
As Rohrer explains on her personal Twitter account, “I have different pronoun preferences in different contexts.” She suggests to others, “Consider asking trans people ‘What pronouns would you like to use in this context?’” An observant respondent properly noted, “That would be assuming we know they are trans.” Yes, it’s complicated.
While Rohrer declared herself lesbian in college, she now identifies as queer and transgender while remaining married to a woman and continuing to raise two children. Since 2014, Rohrer has been the pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in San Francisco. About her faith journey, she explains, “As I became queerer, I also became more faithful.”
Megan expresses the central focus of her ministry this way, “I think the most important thing I can say as a queer pastor is ‘I’m sorry, using faith to tear other people down is not good news,’” adding, “We need to all be as loud and angry as the people who want to declare there are types of people that God can’t love.”
That’s quite a statement — one that should compel us to ask precisely who are these Christians she is speaking of who don’t believe the simple words of John 3:16? Of course, the question is not whether God loves everyone, but what He calls us to in His boundless love for us. That’s a core question any pastor should be in the business of helping people figure out.
Indeed, we’d all do well to recall and realize that what we believe about ourselves is not particularly God’s view. That is indeed good news.
While it is tragic that a major religious organization in the United States has clearly dismissed God’s first truth about humanity in favor of a wholly new unscientific gender theory, it is also essential we listen to and hear the heart of the person at the center of this story: the bishop-elect herself.
Megan’s is a tragically sad story and she shares it poignantly in a video on her personal website. In the video, produced by Cosmopolitan magazine, Megan confesses her confusion about who she is, “I haven’t really figured out how I want to have my body in the rest of my life.” Her dysphoria is evident and arresting.
The most heartbreaking part comes when she talks about the body God gave her through nature as Megan. She explains, “Churches regularly pray for you when you have surgery, which is weird when you are having what would normally be a private part of your body removed,” referring to her breasts. With tender and uneasy tears, she relays, “You wheel into an operating room trying to get relief and you come out wondering how people are going to engage with your body, and it’s new to you, and you don’t even know how you feel about it…”
As she says this, the video shows her buttoning up her black clerical shirt over rounded surgical scars where her perfectly healthy female breasts used to be. Megan apparently desires a man’s chest, but all she has now are the scars dramatically reminding her and everyone else of what God created her to be. Unwittingly, her video is a brutally honest presentation of Megan’s story — perhaps more so than she intended. It certainly calls us to sympathy and remorse.
But as you see her self-damaged chest as she vests in her clerical garb, she confidently explains how most people are irrational on this matter:
Most peoples’ feelings about gay and lesbian people, and trans people, aren’t rational. And maybe as I’ve matured as a pastor, I’ve figured out that it’s feelings. People have a feeling or a fear that is compelling them to say ‘no’ to an entire group of people. The way to respond to that is by … being louder than other people’s fear.
Yes, this is a lecture on rationality from a person who cannot honestly tell you whether she is a man or a woman. This from a supposed ambassador of Jesus Christ, who reminded us with precise clarity, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female.”
Rohrer claims to be a minister of a faith in which the first truth we read about male or female, in the very context that Jesus referenced, is that both are the unique and exclusive image of God in creation. Assuming male or female is simply what we are “assigned at birth” or “identify as” is not an option for anyone who takes Jesus at His word. It is not an option for anyone who takes science and biology seriously, either.
But by dictate of an intentional policy, one of the largest religious entities in America has just radically changed God’s first words to us about His own image and likeness in the world, as well as what it means to be human, officially affirming the false idea that God tells us lies about who we are through the bodies He gave us.
We can be sure of this: God isn’t the confused one. The ELCA has also told all members of their denomination that in order to be good and loving members, they are expected to embrace and celebrate the leaders who believe those lies.
The ELCA deserves rebuke and correction. Megan, as a person, deserves absolute compassion and care for her deep psychological and emotional pain. The larger church and world at large must understand the difference between these two responses, the reasons for them, and that we can and must engage in both at the same time. May God give us the strength and wisdom to do exactly that.