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Incompatible With Christian Teaching': Methodists Vote to Uphold Church Stance on Homosexuality

One African delegate...compared homosexuality to bestiality...

A rainbow flag flutters against the Central Presbyterian Church courtyard, across the street from the Georgia state capitol building where the National Organization for Marriage held a rally on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2010. The National Organization for Marriage -- a nonprofit that advocates marriage as the union between a man and a woman -- is on a month-long "Summer for Marriage Tour" to 23 U.S. cities to show support for the institution of marriage. The tour stopped at Atlanta for a rally on the state capitol steps. Meanwhile, across the street, supporters of gay-marriage rights gathered for a silent protest. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal Constitution, Chris Dunn)

TAMPA, Fla. (The Blaze/AP) -- After an emotional debate, Methodists at a national legislative meeting Thursday upheld the denomination's policy that same-sex relationships are "incompatible with Christian teaching.'"

Delegates at the General Conference voted by about 60 percent to 40 percent against softening the language on homosexuality in their Book of Discipline, which contains church laws and doctrine. The meeting is held once every four years, which means the policy won't come up for a conference vote again until 2016.

(Related: United Methodists Strike Down Two Resolutions Calling for Divestment From Israel)

This is yet another noteworthy vote to be held on a controversial issue this week by Methodists. As The Blaze previously reported, on Wed., May 2, the denomination twice voted to reject resolutions that called for a divestment from companies accused of assisting Israel in the ongoing dispute over Middle Eastern lands.

Advocates for gay and lesbian Methodists gathered in the convention hall wearing rainbow stoles and protested the vote by singing and interrupting the meeting. Some cried when the vote tally was announced. Methodist leaders briefly shut down business in response to the protest.

With just under 8 million U.S. members, the United Methodist Church is the largest mainline Protestant denomination in the country, with a significant and growing membership of more than 4 million overseas. However, the number of Methodists is shrinking inside the U.S., while expanding in African and Asian countries where the church is theologically conservative.

Several overseas delegates spoke against any change in church law on homosexuality, arguing that the Bible forbids same-gender relationships and that homosexuality was not accepted in their countries. One African delegate, speaking through a translator, compared homosexuality to bestiality.

Methodists have been debating their church stand on homosexuality for four decades. Other mainline Protestant denominations - including the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United Church of Christ - have in recent years moved toward accepting gay and lesbian couples. The United Church of Christ has gone the farthest by affirming gay marriage.

The Methodist meeting will continue Friday.

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