TOWSON, MD. -- A group of former Episcopalians unhappy with theological positions of the mother church has opened a national center in Towson to identify and register fellow dissidents. It plans to launch an advertising campaign next month.

It is the first well-financed and well-organized attempt of the various traditionalist denominations, dioceses and congregations around the country that share disillusionment with the Episcopal Church's "theological turmoil," said Bishop Albion W. Knight Jr. of Bethesda, a retired Army brigadier general who is heading the effort.

Knight, who said he left the Episcopal Church in 1983 after 29 years as a priest in 13 of its dioceses, is now missionary bishop of the East of the breakaway United Episcopal Church of North America. The group is not recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Lawrence W. Thompson, the full-time director of interchurch relations and manager of the center, is the former field director of the Episcopal Church's Prayer Book Society. He said local contributors, including one "major anonymous benefactor," have guaranteed financial support of the center for a minimum of two years.

Knight said the ordination of women, "the imminent consecration of a woman bishop" and the ordination of homosexuals are what he and fellow traditionalists see as the three principal stumbling blocks to reconciliation with the Anglican mainstream.

Knight said that as a leader of the United Episcopal Church's nearly 2,000 communicants in 20 congregations, including one in Baltimore, he had "the dual purpose" of stimulating their growth and strengthening ties with groups that share their views.

"My ultimate goal is to see a true traditional Episcopal church formed," Knight said. "I think it will come from disturbed laity and disturbed clergy still in the Episcopal Church. We can show them how to form new congregations, how to set up pension funds for clergy and so forth."