The 62-year-old bishop said the cancer has been found in the early stages and he expects a full recovery.
"By way of encouragement, the surgeon showed [my wife] Phoebe and me photographs of former patients who shortly after their surgery were kayaking, playing tennis, and hiking up mountains," Griswold wrote in an e-mail to his staff Monday. "I can't promise to be doing the same, but there is every reason to think that I will snap back without too much difficulty."
Griswold was ordained in 1963 and served as bishop of Chicago from 1987 to 1997, when he was elected to a nine-year term as the 25th presiding bishop of the 2.5 million-member church.
As presiding bishop, Griswold oversees the entire U.S. church, serves as president of the 200-member House of Bishops, and represents the Episcopal Church in the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Griswold said he has been tested for prostate cancer every six months, and a routine checkup last month revealed high levels of prostate specific antigens (PSA). Griswold said the cancer "is very much in its early stages and there is every likelihood that surgery will take care of it."
The soft-spoken bishop is considered a moderate by many in the church and has struggled to find a middle road on divisive issues, especially homosexuality.
From July 5 to 14, Griswold presided over the church's triennial General Convention meeting in Denver. With a do-not-rock-the-boat mentality for a year of Jubilee, Griswold urged the church to put aside its divisive issues in order to draw closer to God.
Pamela Chinnis, who finished her term as president of the church's House of Deputies in Denver, said she wishes Griswold a speedy recovery.
"I certainly am praying for him, as we all are in the Episcopal Church, and he'll very much be in our thoughts and prayers as he goes through the surgery," Chinnis said.
Griswold is the most recent religious leader to be treated for prostate cancer; cancer survivors include Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Rev. Andrew Young, president of the National Council of Churches.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with 180,400 expected diagnoses in 2000. If the disease is detected and treated early, most patients survive. According to the American Cancer Society, 67% of all patients live at least 10 years, and 15% live at least 15 years after treatment.