Bishop Graham Leonard of London, chief foe of women's ordination in the Church of England, is expected to voice his support for a plan to unify U.S. Episcopal and Anglican opponents of female priests in a major address in this country next month.
Leaders of a drive to unify several breakaway Episcopal bodies say they believe that Bishop Leonard will lend his backing to the unity plan when he delivers the John Findley Green Lecture Sept. 18 at Westminster College, a Presbyterian school in Fulton, Mo.
The London bishop's speech is scheduled a week before the opening of the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops, Sept. 25-Oct. 2 in St. Charles, Ill. The bishops are to discuss recommendations for making peace with traditionalists in their ranks who are threatening to leave the Episcopal Church when it begins electing and consecrating women bishops.
Leonard, who angered bishops on both sides of the Atlantic by violating protocol and church law in "adopting" a defrocked Episcopal priest and his breakaway parish in Oklahoma, has visited the United States several times to confer with allies in the movement opposed to women's ordination.
At a May meeting in Rosemont, Pa., where Leonard spoke, Episcopal traditionalists and leaders of Anglican splinter groups gave informal approval to a proposal to start a "registry" of like-minded U.S. Anglicans and Episcopalians. Those on the list would look to the bishop of London as their spiritual leader but would make no immediate moves to leave their own denominations or to form a united body of traditionalists.
The group wants to be "in communion" with the archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, said Bishop Albion Knight, head of a splinter group called the United Episcopal Church, "but I wouldn't fall on my sword doing it. I'm not sure Canterbury is going to be worth being in communion with in three years," he said, referring to moves in the Church of England toward approval of women's ordination.