Moderate Brisbane archbishop elected primate of Australia's Anglican Church

Sydney, Australia - The moderate Archbishop of Brisbane Phillip Aspinall was elected primate of Australia's Anglican church, defeating the conservative front-runner in a secret ballot.

The evangelical Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen had been expected to win the vote, sparking fears of a split in Australia's second largest church because of his staunch opposition to ordination of homosexual priests and women bishops.

But Aspinall, 45, emerged victorious after a lengthy secret ballot process that lasted about four hours.

Aspinall said through a spokesman that he was honoured and daunted by the trust shown in him and would pray to God for the strength to lead the church.

The Reverend John Cornish, head of the progressive church group Anglicans Together, welcomed Aspinall's election.

"He will be a unifying force," Cornish told AFP. He's a young person who is a valuable member of the church."

Cornish had previously expressed fears that Jensen's election could split the Anglican Church in Australia.

Aspinall was elected by 21 diocesan bishops, 12 laity members and 12 clergy members.

He will hold the position of primate until 2007, when the church will review the position.