Australia's new Anglican leader avoids stand on gay dispute

Sydney, Australia - Delegates to the Anglican Church of Australia have elected Brisbane's Archbishop Phillip Aspinall as their new provincial leader, making him a key figure in the Anglican Communion worldwide.

Aspinall, who will hold office until 2007, succeeds Archbishop Peter Carnley of Perth, who is retiring after five years.

Aspinall, 45, has not taken a public stand in the debate over homosexuality that is tearing apart Anglicanism. In last week's election, he defeated an outspoken conservative, Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney. Jensen had condemned the election of an openly gay bishop in the U.S. Episcopal Church and the acceptance of same-sex blessing ceremonies in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

"What unites us is much more profound than what divides us," Aspinall said.

The 38 primates who head Anglican branches are playing a major role in handling Anglican disagreement over what the Bible says about homosexuality. The Australian church ranks fourth in size among Anglican branches, with 4 million members.

In other Anglican developments:

-Leaders of the 2.5 million-member Anglican Church of Kenya reaffirmed breaking ties with the Episcopal Church over its decision to elect an openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, and said the U.S. denomination should be expelled from the Anglican Communion, according to a report in Nairobi's The Standard newspaper.

-The bishop of Bolivia has assumed jurisdiction over a new congregation of 100 in Elizabethtown, Ky., the latest conservative group to quit its Episcopal Church diocese and parish over the gay issue.