SAN CLEMENTE, CALIF. -- The acting bishop of the Los Angeles Episcopal Diocese has refused to sanction a one-woman order of nuns established by a transsexual and has called on the carpet the priest who heard the woman's self-styled vows.
Sister Mary Elizabeth, 49, who until a 1975 sex change operation was known as Michael Clark, took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in a Jan. 6 service presided over by the Rev. Robert Boyer, pastor of St. Clement's-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church. The vows were preparatory to establishing an order to be known as the Community of St. Elizabeth.
But the following day, Bishop Oliver D. Garver Jr. nixed the idea. "I do know and can say without any fear of contradiction that what has happened is neither the formation of a religious order or a religious community with any standing within the Episcopal Church," he said.
Boyer said he officiated at the service to affirm Sister Mary Elizabeth's "desire to establish a religious community." But he added, "I really had not thought through the full implications of what I was doing."
Boyer has been ordered to write an official report on his actions. At issue, according to a church spokesman, is not Sister Mary Elizabeth's gender but whether Boyer overstepped his authority as a parish priest by attempting to inaugurate a new Episcopal Church monastic community.
Sister Mary Elizabeth, a U.S. Navy veteran and father of a 27-year-old son, said she grew up in a Baptist church but sought admittance -- unsuccessfully -- to six Roman Catholic and two Episcopal orders of nuns after her sex change.
Sister Mary Elizabeth said she will continue as a novice in her own order without the church's official blessing.