Rt. Rev. Dr. Lynn Elizabeth Walker


Lynn Walker was born in 1952 in Orange County, New York, as an only child and first grandson in a large, extended (and not very devout) Roman Catholic family of mostly second-generation northern European origin--Germany, British Isles, Austria-Hungary, Eastern Europe. Her grandfather was a fourth degree Knight of Columbus, and she began early on to have an understanding of the role that faith might play in her life.  Her early religious development was mostly in Catholic schools with Dominican sisters, back in the days of Latin liturgies. Beginning with first grade, she learned of God's love for all, fell in love with Christianity, and began to discern the call to ordination. She attended public school for two unhappy years and was able to return to Catholic school and the Dominican sisters for high school. There she considered entering a couple of religious orders, but was a shy and introspective youth and so did not pursue this vocation.

Lynn had concerns about gender identity on and off since around age three, for she had been raised to understand that she was a "boy," but was troubled because she somehow saw herself as more of a "girl." By the time she got to high school, she had heard of Christine Jorgensen and read Jan Morris's memoir, but the words "transsexual" and "transgender" were still nowhere in her working vocabulary. She thought of herself as a boy who liked to wear girls' clothing. There was no inkling that there might be a larger community of people like her out there. It was not until the late 1970s, while living in Massachusetts, that Lynn somehow came across the Tiffany Club of New England and first met a trans woman, Merissa Sherrill Lynn, at her home in Wayland. Over the years, they were in and out of contact, and Lynn was reassured to know that there was a larger community of trans folk.

In 1970 Lynn went to Niagara University for a degree in English and philosophy and stayed there for an M.S. degree in education and counseling. Lynn was married in the Catholic Church (in the university chapel) in 1976; a son was born and baptized in 1976.  Lynn was commissioned in the U.S. Army. A Distinguished Military Graduate, she served in the Army on active duty, in the reserves and as a civilian employee for more than 22 years.

Around 1981 Lynn and her spouse joined the Episcopal Church. They were very active in a local parish, teaching Sunday School, and so on. Both considered entering the process for ordination, but it seemed entirely impractical, given the need for full-time work and the cost of seminary study. Lynn had come across references here and there to the Old Catholics and the Independent Orthodox and around 1985 found her way to a local parish. Lynn was ordained in 1988 in an independent Orthodox jurisdiction and served as an assistant pastor in the western part of New York State.

Lynn had some difficulty being a fairly liberal and progressive Christian within a very conservative church. But since she was ministering in a parish, it was good. The course of study was an apprenticeship and led to an unaccredited M.Div. degree. Around 1992, Lynn had moved to Brooklyn and was finally able to address the matter of gender identity. Lynn requested, and was granted, an indefinite leave of absence "for personal reasons." At that time, Lynn  began to attend an Episcopal parish in New York City's West Village and became quite active there.

From 1992 to 1996, Lynn was engaged in the trans community and pursuing her own transition in a gradual way, while maintaining employment. During this period, Lynn connected with the Gender Identity Project at what was then called the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York City (now the LGBT Community Center) and for a few years volunteered with them as a peer counselor facilitating groups, including for one year, a sparsely attended spirituality group. Lynn served on the board of the International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE). She is proud to have officiated at a wedding for two non-trans women at the very first "Camp Trans," set up outside the gates and across the road from the Michigan Women's Music Festival in the early 1990s. In preparation for the celebration of Stonewall 25 in New York, she served on a couple of committees and coordinated a Transgender Caucus and networking event.

In August 1996, Lynn secured employment as a woman, had her name changed legally and saw her income plummet to about 40 percent of what it had been. She ended up working a full-time job and three part-time jobs to make ends meet. That--along with some of the dynamics in the office--taught her a great deal about male privilege, sexism, and transphobia.

At this same time, Lynn approached Archbishop Alfred Lankenau, the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Orthodox Catholic Church of America (OCCA), with a letter of enquiry about entering his jurisdiction. Lynn had heard that the OCCA was friendly to the LGBT community and that they ordained women. After some communications back and forth, Lynn was credentialled in the OCCA on September 14, 1996. Since the OCCA had no parishes in New york City, Lynn continued to attend the  Episcopal parish, but now was in contact with a larger community of Independent Orthodox colleagues across the U.S.

Lynn completed the Doctor of Ministry in applied ministries with a focus on early church history, with the Graduate Theological Foundation in South Bend, Indiana. She is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the International Association of Women Ministers, and the Federation of Christian Ministries.  Her published works include: “The Empowerment of a Community,” with R. Blumenstein & B.E. Warren in Current Concepts in Transgender Identity (1998); “The Concept of Shared Ministry and the Ministry of Holy Orders in the Independent and Autonomous Orthodox Catholic Christian Churches” in American Catholic (Vol. 1, No. 2 ,1998); and “Women Priests at the Beginning of the Third Millennium of Christianity,” in The Spirit of Association of Interfaith Ministers (Vol. 9, No. 3, Fall 1999); as well as a number of essays in magazines and journals.

In 2004, she presented a workshop on "Transformation and Authenticity," focussing on the intersection of religon and the transgender experience, at a meeting of Interweave, the Unitarian Universalist LGBT Community. For several years in the early 2000s, Lynn delivered the opening invocation at the Night of a Thousand Gowns, a charity ball sponsored by the Imperial Court of New York.  More recently, since 2009, at the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference, she has participated and presented in the spirituality track, and has officiated at religious services during the conference.

After Lynn served for more than ten years in the OCCA, the Archbishop determined to appoint her to a leadership role. She was elevated to Archimandrite and given the position of Vicar for the East Coast, serving about a dozen clergy from New York to Florida. In 2009, the Synod of Bishops determined that it would be good to add to their number and so Lynn and three other priests were elected and consecrated bishops. She presently serves as Ecumenical Officer for the OCCA and Bishop of New York and the Atlantic Coast.  She is in a domestic partnership with the Rev. Francesca Fortunato, and they live in Brooklyn, New York. 

(This biographical statement written by Mark Bowman from information provided by Lynn Walker.)

Biography Date: April, 2012


Catholic (Orthodox Catholic Church of America (OCCA)) | Lankenau, Alfred | Author/editor | Clergy Activist | Trans activism


“Rt. Rev. Dr. Lynn Elizabeth Walker | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed May 20, 2024, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/lynn-elizabeth-walker.


Know Lynn Elizabeth Walker? Tell us your experience.
(All entries are reviewed by the LGBT-RAN office before posting.)