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U.S. church leaves key Anglican panel

Compiled from wire reports The Spokesman-Review

London Anglican primates agreed Thursday that the U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada would withdraw from a key body of the global Anglican Communion after failing to overcome internal church disagreements about the election of a gay bishop in the United States and the blessing of same-sex unions there and in Canada.

The agreement marked the first formal breach in the communion over the explosive issues of sexuality and biblical authority.

A statement from leaders of Anglican national churches who met this week in Northern Ireland also called on the two churches to explain their thinking on gay issues at another Anglican meeting in June.

The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Frank T. Griswold, said the debate would continue and that his fellow church leaders had made room “for a wide variety of perspectives.”

“I am grateful that the Anglican Communion is still able to make room for different points of view so we can avoid schism and fracturing and stay together for the sake of the Gospel,” Griswold said.

The U.S. church precipitated the most serious rift in the communion’s history when it affirmed the election of V. Gene Robinson, who openly lives with a male partner, as bishop of New Hampshire. Both churches have been criticized by conservatives for sanctioning blessings of gay unions.

The two churches are temporarily stepping away from the Anglican Consultative Council, a key body for contact among the national churches and one of the four so-called “instruments of unity.”

However, the Anglican primates also recommended a special hearing be held at the next council meeting in June to allow the North American churches to explain their actions on homosexuality.

Nicaragua encouraged to destroy missiles

Managua, Nicaragua The United States on Thursday urged Nicaragua to destroy its remaining shoulder-fired missiles left over from the 1980s Contra war, saying they could fall into the hands of terrorists and be used against commercial airplanes.

Nicaragua says it has about 1,000 Soviet-made, shoulder-fired missiles safely hidden away. Lawmakers have fought efforts to destroy the weapons, saying they are needed to protect the country.

Rose Likins, the acting assistant secretary for political and military affairs, disagreed, issuing a statement through the U.S. Embassy that said the missiles were the “preferred weapons” of terrorists.

“Our worry is that these kinds of uncontrolled arms represent a threat to the region and global aviation,” she said.

Likins, who issued the statement a day after she met with Nicaraguan officials in Managua, said Nicaragua was the only Central American nation with the missiles and questioned whether they were secure.

“Missiles that aren’t officially supervised and controlled could easily fall into the hands of criminal or terrorist organizations,” she said.

Getting rid of shoulder-fired missiles has become a priority for President Bush, who signed an agreement with Russia on Thursday aimed at restricting the availability of the weapons. Easily carried and hidden, U.S. officials fear they could be used against commercial planes.

Swedes’ death toll from tsunami rises to 215

Stockholm, Sweden Sweden, which lost more people in the Asian tsunami that any other foreign country, added more than 100 names to the list of those confirmed dead Thursday, raising the toll to 215.

Another 335 Swedes remain missing and feared dead in the aftermath of the Dec. 26 disaster that has killed at least 170,000 people, mainly from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.

Dozens of nations whose citizens were visiting the Asian countries hit by the tsunami lost people, but the Swedish toll is highest. France and Germany are next with 85 deaths and 80 deaths, respectively.

Swedish officials expect the toll to approach 550, almost mirroring the Swedish death toll from the sinking of the ferry Estonia in 1994. Of the 852 people who died on the ship, 551 were Swedes.

Thailand is a favored tourist getaway for Swedes seeking warm beaches and an escape from the cold Nordic winters.

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