Editor’s note: The following essay appears in the Fall 2021 issue of Eikon.
In recent months, a certain church body made headlines after electing and installing Meghan Rohrer as bishop of their Sierra Pacific Synod. “Evangelical Lutheran Church elects first transgender bishop,” declared NBC News’s headline. Not to be outdone in the vaguery department, CNN declared, “The Lutheran Church elected its first transgender bishop.”
These headlines paint with far too broad an ecclesiastical brush. It is true that a church body calling itself “the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America” (ELCA) recently installed Rohrer as a bishop, the first election for someone identifying as transgender in that particular church body. But it is misleading to refer to the ELCA as either the Evangelical Lutheran Church or, simply, the Lutheran Church, as neither of these terms is associated with a specific church body.
While there may be only one ecclesial organization that…